Tuesday, May 29, 2012

No Nursing Home for Old Men

What happens when guys cross that half-century mark of age? They start thinking about hanging up their mantle of manhood. They start dreaming about retiring from their testosterone fueled adventures, about the easy life, about being catered to in a nursing home. Well, the sissy men do.

But what do you do if you are a 65-year-old Sylvester Stallone or a 64-year-old Arnold Schwarzenegger? How about Mickey Rourke at 59 or Bruce Willis at 57? The choice is easy: You all get together and make an action-packed movie where you do your own dangerous stunts, and take off your shirts to show off a physique that even 20-year-olds would be envious of – men included.

In fact, that movie, "The Expendables", is perhaps the best testosterone booster of sissy men everywhere. It has inspired a number of us to set our beer down and give serious consideration to doing a sit up or two during the week.

Unfortunately, considering exercise won't build your body as well as actually exercising. To turn a liquid six-pack into a muscular six-pack requires motivation. In this case, that motivation takes the form of shame. And if you aren't shamed into action as a 72-year-old Chuck Norris struts his stuff in "The Expendables 2" this summer, well, buddy, perhaps we need to revoke your manhood card.

Just so there's no misunderstanding - Chuck Norris does not appear in the movie. The movie appears in him!

Oh, and for you fans of Jean-Claude Van Damme and Stephen Stegall – yes, all five of you – Mr. Damme (51) shows up in this sequel. Mr. Stegall will show off his 60-year-old surly squint in "The Expendables 3", which starts filming this fall. Apparently, the first movie shamed, I mean, motivated both of them into "The Expendables" sequels. Mr. Stegall just needed a little more "motivation".

But at least Jean and Stephen are out of retirement, which is more than I can say for the rest of us girlie-men. What do I have to say for myself? "Nurse, get me another beer so I can seriously consider doing a sit-up!"

Monday, May 28, 2012

business on tv.

So tonight on Telly, I have the choice between "Undercover Boss" and "Shark Tank".

In one show, an executive suddenly becomes concerned with the welfare of his faithful revenue generators, I mean, his employees. Fortunately for him, his conversion to a kind and caring employer is witnessed by millions of potential customers, I mean, TV viewers. How convenient.

In another show, four rich executives interview potentially easy money for their pockets by honestly asking their interviewees "what's in it for me?"

I'm trying not to be cynical. But it would be so much easier to work for a company that doesn't view you as a necessary evil in their business plan.

yin, yang, cats, and dogs

It started shortly after the perfect couple married and bought a house. She wanted undermount stainless sinks for the house; he wanted to use drop-in cast-iron versions. She wanted granite counter-top; he, quartz. As they tried to build the perfect home, they tore down a promising relationship. She became, not the yin to his yang, but the cat to his dog. He became an itch she could never quite scratch.

Amazingly, this went on for 55 years. She would yearn for a to-MAY-to sandwich on whole wheat bread; while he was okay with a to-MAH-to on rye. She would want to go to the Caribbean, and he would want her … to just go.

One day, she hired an overpriced interior designer to fix their old house. The next day, he hired a divorce attorney to fix their old marriage. Soon, they signed the papers, sold the house, split the money. They parted the best of acquaintances. One told the other, "You'll never find another like me." The other said, "Why, do you have a twin? I'm single now." And for the first time in years, they smiled.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Subject verbed an object.

What was I thinking? I read my old posts and wonder when the grammar police will arrest me for my ignorant abuse of innocent words and for my senseless slaughter of many sentence structures.

My time is short. So, in spite of my frustration, I am devote as much time as possible to study the intricate craft of writing. But it is possible to undo a lifetime of bad composition habits?

Given my available time, this has become an adventure in self-education. Unfortunately, I can't speed up the process by wrapping my knuckles with a ruler every time I make a mistake. If I keep myself after school, I am punished by having the convenience of the refrigerator nearby.

Still, every day I find myself chasing down another complex rabbit hole with an ever increasing number of tunnels. Eventually, these tunnels of composition and work placement and style and other mind numbing rules converge into a humbling realization – I have to relearn those grammar school basics of subject and verb and punctuation.

During my elementary school English class, I'm pretty sure my eyes weren't that glazed-over. As I sat at my little school desk, I'm reasonably certain that I was somewhat attentive. While my gray-haired teacher, Mrs. White, droned on about those rudimentary language lessons, I'll bet I gave her my undivided attention – well, most of it. Well, maybe some of it. I don't know. I'm not a betting man.

Every day in class, she assigned us writing homework. I remember groaning. In my bedroom at home, I wrestled the demon of homework procrastination. Sometimes I would win and take my place at my desk as the reward for a hollow victory. I recall the smell of the blue lined notebook paper and the woody aroma of my No.2 pencil. To this day, I can feel the greasy slide of my pencil as I moved its sharpened, black point on the white surface of the paper. I wondered if my teacher had the same sensation as she covered my paper with her blood-red pencil.

Yet, here I am – 40 years later, struggling with concepts that have grown moldy and distorted. It's like wanting to learn advanced mathematical techniques, but finding myself having to relearn the basics of counting before I can even get to "1+1".

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Up, up, and ... intercepted

So I took matters into my own hands. Here we are, 12 years into 21st-century - a much-touted millennium of unbelievable wonderment. And still, we have not answered that age-old question: Where is my flying car?

Don't worry. I tried to handle this. I have, well, had a small RV – by small, I mean slightly bigger than the mini van but small enough that you have to step outside to change your mind.

Inside my quaint mobile home dangled one of those fancy Casablanca ceiling fans. Given the size of the interior and the air movement at the lowest setting of the ceiling fan, my home-away-from-home would become the inside of a NASA wind tunnel.

This is a good thing. I've moved the fan from inside of the RV and installed it with three more fans on each corner of the vehicle. The good news is that, with all four on the highest setting, I immediately became airborne. The bad news is that I live next to a military air base. Apparently, "Bogey" is not a term of affection for a Casablanca fan-powered flying vehicle.

Example of the Simple Life

Living and working in a very rural area for all these years has prepared me for various versions of living the simple life. I had this thought on Monday while having the privilege of being part of a baby shower for one of our coworkers.

I don't want to label this happy occasion as a backwoods baby shower. After all, the mother-to-be did receive a new clothes dryer and one of those handy jogging strollers. It's just that her gifts were in the form of new white clothes line and a new wheel barrel.

Still, the joy on the radiant face of this young mother-to-be made you think someone given her gifts from a far more prestigious store than Wal-mart. And made me feel a little ashamed for my gift of clothes pins - in the form of office binder clips.

I would have felt more shameful had I put my name on the gift. But then I'm living the simple life now.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What color was a 1970's ring tone? Heavy.

As I cleaned out the archeological dig known as my shed, I found an old telephone from the 1970's. This was a time when Ma Bell made impressive phones - large, black, very heavy objects with one function: to actually talk to someone - assuming that you complete your call, of course.

For this was also a time when you struggled for several minutes with the rotary dialer to enter long phone numbers. To endure this ordeal, you knew you had to commit to your call. Mis-dial one number and the phone gods would roar with chimed laughter! Do this twice and you found yourself considering if the call was worth the effort.

Did you really want to spend more precious time of your short life redialing? What if your callee wasn't available to answer your call? There were no answering machines (except in offices of law firms who specialized in injury cases where little old ladies were trapped when their phones fell on them). Yes, people were models of fortitude back then. Still, I'm sure there was a limit to the number of redials any one person could justify. I'm also sure those unmade calls ended up being life changers: the prom date that went unasked, the job interview request that wasn't returned, the party invitation that went unanswered, the creditor that was avoided.

I should point out that Ma-Bell's instruments of communication had other uses. Back then, the phones were so massive that movies always used them as convenient murder weapons. Not now, of course. Try using your cell phone as a blunt object of death. You'll be lucky if you can leave a red mark on your victim. Even luckier if your phone doesn't disintegrate upon impact. Even luckier still if your victim doesn't beat you to death for annoying them. (That's why I always say, "Sorry, there was a vicious, ginormous mosquito about to attack you. I just wanted to save your life. I'll text you later when I get a new phone.")

So it was with heavy heart - but not heavier than the phone - that I dragged my once-faithful relic around my house and out to the street with the other trash. Now I have a deep, circular gouge in my yard. Fittingly, one last ring from my phone ...

Ground Shaking Thoughts

Ah, those crazy Californians and their extremes of positive thinking. I just read about a new-age community that resides in the peaceful confines of Orange County. The homeowners have started putting fancy floor tiles (such as quick step eligna and Country Collection Walnut) on their ceilings.

Their positive attitude is that, since an earthquake is positively inevitable, why not be one step ahead. When an earthquake strikes and the roof collapses, the owners won't experience a disaster. Rather, they will have a remodeling adventure.

Sure thing. And the roof won't squash Tabby the cat. Their pet will just be horizontally enhanced. Positively.

Monday, May 21, 2012

When the truth isn't helpful or pretty.

The economy must be getting better. Lately, ego boosting want-ads from recruiters have popped up in my email inbox. On LinkedIn, I see several job offerings tempting me with promises of greener pastures. I want to pursue them further. But I don't. I can't. As much as my current job takes advantage of me, as much as they underpay me, as much as I complain about my work, I have to admit the truth - my company has spoiled me. Actually, over the years, they have deviously corrupted my work habits and expectations. They have seductively conditioned me to accepting second-best. Now, I fear of getting a new job somewhere else.

For example, let's say that another company woos me away with promises of better pay and reasonable responsibilities. After a few short days of that employment heaven, I learn that they use proper techniques and standardized work habits. Oh no! Can I change my sloppy, corner-cutting ways quick enough to meet their expectations? What if they discovered my incompetent habits? Will they fired me or promote me into upper management with the other incompetent boobs?

Scarier still, what if I joined another seemingly ideal company, only to learn that they have worse techniques and work habits. It would be like jumping from one leaking ship to one that is sinking faster than the Titanic or the stock price of Facebook.

There is the third possibility of a wonderful run business that rewards its employees instead of treating them as a necessary evil. But we all know that the Googles and the SASs of the world are rare. And I can't compete with a billion other job seekers. So I'm faced with living with the lessor of two evils.

electrifying relationships

I wish relationships were as straightforward as my work in electronics. I can take two pieces of unrelated wire, melt a little solder into the copper strands of each cable, and twist them together. By adding a little more heat, the solder intermingles and joins the two wires into one unified formation. Finally, I cover the bare embrace of copper with a covering of heatshrink to protect my new creation from the corrosive forces of the outside world.

When I try to join my life with that of a desirable woman, yes, there's heat involved and some wonderful intermingling. Yet, I have no way of protecting this new creation from those caustic influences outside or inside of our fragile embrace.

What was easy to create, now becomes a nightmare in troubleshooting: How to those emotions become short-circuited? What caused our love to overload into anger? What eroded our minutes of happiness into hours of frustration?

More than once, I find myself wishing that my EE degree would be an RE degree: instead of proficiency as an electronic engineer, I wish I had the skill and training as a relationship engineer.

But here I am. Tons of heat shrink at my disposal and none of it of any use.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

I am thankful for my job.

Today's "Employee Open Communication" meeting went well. Very positive, in fact. For the 6th year in a row, we positively won't be getting pay raises. The company is positively not restarting its 401K matching-funds program. And the investors are positively giving a little thought to, maybe, replacing some of our 25-year-old, obsolete-yet-vital-to-production test systems.

In other news, Human Resources is appending our Employee handbook to ban all forms of horse play. So, it's OK if we work for jack-asses, we're just not allowed to play with them.

Friday, May 11, 2012

"war on hording" notes.

The next story, "War on Hording", is a shortened version of one that I'm working on. Again, if you spot ways it can be improved, please let me know. Thanks ...

Monday, May 07, 2012

accidental fun?

As Kay drove my stepdaughter to their apartment, the wind tossed a DOT barrel into their car's path. As an attentive driver, Kay immediately slowed her car. As an inattentive driver operating his two ounce cell phone instead of his 3000 pound car, the guy behind Kay plowed into the back of her vehicle.

Fortunately, everyone survived this unnecessary accident with minor bumps and bruises. The fun began the following day.

For the first time in years, we found our mailbox full. When I opened its little rusty door, out spilled fat envelopes, mailers containing DVDs, large manila envelopes, and several large postcard mailers: Most of them from Raleigh lawyers expressing condolences and concerns of my daughter-in-law's recent accident. Who knew attorneys cared so much?

You never see this kind of reaction from any other profession. When your car is involved in an accident, Raleigh auto body shops don't send their condolences and concerns for your automobile's well-being. If you got rear-ended by an overlooked bill, you wouldn't be barraged by raleigh nc accounting firms seeking to protect your future interests. If you got smacked on the behind, a league of Raleigh chiropractors wouldn't go out of their way to offer their services to align your spine.

So this accident has been an experience. The insurance company for the inattentive driver have sent a check for $700 to make things right. Kay's attorney says he can get $7000 for each girl but it will take a year. Do you know how fun it is to watch teenaged girls agonized over whether to accept $700 now or to wait patiently for a larger amount next year? OMG!

Perhaps it's no surprise that no one has heard from the DOT barrel since the accident. I think it doesn't want to be sued for causing this chain of events, especially since, being from Raleigh, it's a bit too close to those lawyers.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

"Bewording" your daily vocabulary.

I received this "Word of the Day" from in my e-mail today:

besot \bih-SOT\, verb:

1. To infatuate; obsess.
2. To intoxicate or stupefy with drink.
3. To make stupid or foolish: a mind besotted with fear and superstition.

The prefix be was used in Middle English to denote verbs, as in the contemporary words become and befriend. The word sot referred to an alcoholic.


I guess we should be happy that Middle Age practice of making verbs by adding "be" to nouns didn't last. Otherwise, today we would talk about insects bebeeing flowers with pollen; or, how the snow storm behoused us for much of the winter. We would have to remember Shakespeare's famous quote as "bebe or not bebe...". Of couse, the B section of dictionary would be a separate volume, or rather, the B section would bevolumed into a back-breaking edition.

Fortunately, English given up its besotted ways and taken on better practices, IMHO, my dear BFF. OMG, AWGTHTGTTA? LOL! TTYL.

Friday, May 04, 2012

Can you hair me now?

Today's post is linked to ds laboratories, a provider of hair growth products. Like poverty and war, hair loss seems to be another unsolvable dilemma in our modern day of technological wonders. But is it really a problem?

What would happen if people begin looking at the positive aspect of losing hair? So far, no one has noticed the obvious – the more hair you lose, the more weight you lose. Granted, even with heavy hair, we're talking ounces, not pounds. Still, you would think that people would be overjoyed with a weight loss method that involves no effort on their part.

So without any convincing reason for my link, all I can say is: here is my post. Hair today, and maybe gone tomorrow.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Heard at today's meeting.

"The longer we delay, the later it will be!" Thank goodness, Captain Obvious is a member of our upper management. I don't know how we would make it through these frustratingly tedious meetings of little consequence.

And how can we remove all these delays? Oh, I don't know. How about less meetings, less pontificating, and less micro-managing so we can do our jobs. But then that's just thoughts from the rest of us: the lowly peons, the worker bees trying to get things done as properly as possible.