Bluetooth, Autos, And Sunspots

You’ve all seen them. Walking downtown. In the restroom. On the ski chairlift. Talking to themselves, usually loudly. Well, not exactly talking to themselves but to someone else on the phone via their fancy bluetooth earpiece. It’s not until you spot the electronic protuberance stuck in their ear that you realize they’re not talking to you or anyone around them. Word up people – if you use one of these things in public it makes you a bit of a duche (or douche if you’re Canadian). Sorry, that’s just the way it is.

Nobody, and I mean nobody, is so important they can’t stop what they’re doing for a moment and hold a phone up to their ear like a normal person. Unless of course you’re a T-Rex. With those little arms you don’t have many choices. Or Captain B. McCrea from the movie WALL-E. He was a bit arm challenged as well. The rest of us however have no excuse. Unless you live in California which has banned holding a phone while you drive. You can still talk and you still have to look down at it to dial, but you can’t hold it. Important because driving at 70+ mph on the freeway, scrolling through your smartphone’s contact list looking for aunt Winifred’s phone number (who you haven’t spoken to in 3 years) is clearly not dangerous. Actually holding the phone while you explain why you never thanked her for the holiday fruitcake in ’98 is death-defying. I feel so much safer now.

Speaking of safety, there’s the issue of sunspots. Sunspot AR1476 erupted a few days ago. While it didn’t turn into an x-class flare, due to its orientation things could have been bad if it had. Why is this an issue? Next to the zombie apocalypse I think a large-scale, x-class eruption to be our greatest danger. What would such a flare-up do? Nothing much. Just interrupt and/or destroy our power grid and some electronics with massive amounts of electromagnetic energy and radiation. Its happened before. The Carrington Event in 1859. Again during WWII – knocked out all radars for several days.

Can you imagine the chaos if our power grid was down for weeks? Or months? Assuming their brains weren’t fried in the initial radiation waves, all those folks walking aimlessly around with bluetooth headsets with nobody answering…  “Hello? Hello? I’m getting some static here, can you hear me? Can you hear me now?”

Bad Karma

Karma is a concept of deeds and acts found in Hinduism that deal with creating one’s destiny. If one sows goodness, one reaps goodness; if one sows evil, one will reap evil. A theistic view of karma is expressed by the following: “God does not make one suffer for no reason nor does He make one happy for no reason. God is very fair and gives you exactly what you deserve”. There was a bunch more on Wikipedia but my attention wandered and I got sidetracked watching a video of cats playing tether ball.

What got me thinking about this (karma, not funny cat videos) is people with ill intent. Bad people. Mean people. People who take advantage because they can. I don’t understand people like that. You seem to find them in business most often. Probably because that’s the most common place people have power over others – your job. Everyone has run into one of these asshats at some point or another.  The boss who makes you do something simply because he can. A coworker who intentionally throws you under the bus for no apparent reason. The guy who decides microwaving three-day old fish in the break-room is a good idea. What goes through these folks heads? Why do some people treat others in a way they wouldn’t want to be treated?

One of my favorite quotes semi-related to this topic is from Johann Wofgang von Goethe, a German poet in the 1800’s. Paraphrasing: “You can easily judge the character of a man by how he treats those who can do nothing for him.”  I also like this one from J.C. Watts (OU Sooners!) “Character is doing what’s right when nobody’s looking.”  This one’s a gem as well from Capt. Ramsey of the USS Alabama: “The training program is simplicity itself. You just stick a cattle prod up their ass and you can get a horse to deal cards. It’s a simple matter of voltage.”

Ok, that last one is fiction but it does give me ideas of what I’d like to do to a few of these not so nice people. Why does it seem that these folks often succeed in business? Do you really have to be a butt-head to get ahead in life? I hope not. I’m not a saint by any stretch of imagination but I hope that overall my balance sheet shows more good than bad. At least I tell myself it does… because it’s going to be the big bummer dudesky if at the end you find out it didn’t matter.

It has to matter. Otherwise what was the point of most Clint Eastwood movies? Or those slighty creepy values.com commercials from evangelical Philip Anschutz? I don’t want to risk bad juju. I’ll just keep on trying to do the right thing. But… given the opportunity to turn the tables on one of those bad folks would I do it? As Clint Eastwood Said in Gran Torino, “Ever notice how you come across somebody once in a while you shouldn’t have f’ed with? That’s me.” (don’t you love how easy it is to be a badass from the safety of the Internet?)

It’s Getting Hot In Here

I’m down in Palm Springs visiting family. It’s not my first time here so I shouldn’t be surprised by this, but… it’s hot. Early May and it’s reaching the upper 90’s by afternoon. That’s degrees for my European friends. I don’t know what that it is in celsius. Somewhere around 275 I think. I never could figure out all those zeros and decimal places with the metric system. I remember the “metric unit” in grade school. There was some sort of national push in the 70’s to convert the US to metric. I think there was some sort of uprising by 4th graders at the time. Rioting in the lunch room and sit-in’s on the playground convinced the president to abandon metric. Thank god. A royal with cheese just isn’t the same thing.

Anyway, it’s hot. Not surprising since it’s the desert and life isn’t supposed to exist here. Take a gazillion gallons of water from Northern California via the Colorado river, build approximately 20,000 golf courses and viola! You have a thriving city. What’s funny about the population here (besides the wacky golf clothes) is how they treat the heat. One of two things happens. This time of year when it’s merely hot and not melting your eyeballs they all say, “oh but you should have been here last week. It was absolutely beautiful! It’s a little warm, but when that valley wind howls through and blows all the sand off the patio it’s really lovely out.” Everyone lives in a state of weather denial. Sure it’s hot now, but there’s approximately 6 days in January  and a few in February when it’s perfect.

The second state of mind happens in about a month when temps reach 115+ (2,300 in celsius). The residents seem to take it as a badge of honor. “You think this is hot? Last August it got so hot all the rubber hoses in my car melted while I was driving to the mall.” Comparing AC bills seems to be some sort of desert living status symbol. The house I’m in has not one, but three AC units. Not joking, I wear a sweater (cute v-neck!) in the house to ward off hypothermia. Walk outside and you get hit in the chest with heat that rivals an iron smelting factory. Remember to bring your jacket to the mall because the temp inside will be subarctic. It’s amazing more old folks aren’t dropping off left and right from pneumonia.

When viewed from the comfort of your living room, it truly is a gorgeous setting. The beautiful San Jacinto mountains, lush green golf courses, faux spanish/Mediterranean/San Diego architecture, acres of high-end shopping to rival Beverly Hills, all combine to make a special place. A place too hot for rattlesnakes. Given my unnatural fear of snakes, maybe I should give this area a second thought? Hmm, no. Bermuda shorts just aren’t flattering on my figure.

Twinkies And Gray Hair

I’m heading to a Mexican beach in about nine weeks. This is a good thing. It also means going shirtless. That is a slightly uncomfortable thing. As a guy I’m not particularly vain, but I’ve never been very fond of how I look between the neck and the knees. I’m happy with my calves. I guess the ankles too. The rest not so much. I wouldn’t say I’m exactly fat. Just sort of… squishy around the middle.

The problem is food. I love to eat. Be forwarned – don’t get between me and good BBQ. Or cheese. I’ve seen plenty of Bruce Lee movies and can scare the hell out of you with my Jeet Kune Do warrior yell. The only thing that saves me from being four hundred pounds with cankles is that I’m pretty darn active. Between daily mountain biking, running, and wicked Gears of War battles on the XBox, I burn a ton of calories. Unfortunately all that does is let me maintain my sexy Stay-Puft abs. I never actually get less squishy (de-squishy?).

I figure I need to drop fifteen pounds to not feel like I need to wear a support garment. That means roughly two pounds a week. I’ll need to burn 5,800 calories a week. Just under 900 a day. That seems do-able. The problem will be limiting the calories needed for basic sustenance to just the minimum. Probably somewhere around 1,800-2,000.

Which brings me to Twinkies. 160 calories and a shelf life that doesn’t expire. I figured I could eat ten a day. And coffee. Can’t live without coffee. 1600 calories and plenty of sugar to keep me fueled. I was just about to head to Costco to pick up a pallet when I saw on snopes.com that it’s a myth. Twinkies only have a shelf life of 25 days. What a cruel joke! My pallet-load would go bad before I could consume all that sweet goodness. If I’m already going to have to go to the grocery store more frequently, I might as well buy vegetables or something. Sigh.

This is going to be a struggle. Worth it though – who doesn’t like to see a middle-aged guy strutting around the pool convinced everyone thinks he’s twenty years younger? I did discover a new batch of gray hair the other day. Going to have to deal with that. Grecian-Formula for Men and we’re practically John Travolta. Wait, that’s a hairpiece, so bad example. I’m sure you get the point.

I’ll start the diet tomorrow. Or maybe on Monday. Never start a diet on the weekend. I should probably find that swim-shirt just in case.

Can I Get Some Service, Please?

I’m not sure when it happened. I wouldn’t have thought I’d get like this. I fear I’ve turned into a cranky old curmudgeon. Maybe not quite to the level of the shuffling old guy with hair sprouting out of ears like some sort of odd alien growth, but clearly I’ve lost patience with the average retail employee. When did it become okay to hire someone incapable of counting change back? I know I’ve turned into a crusty old codger when it annoys the crap out of me the way they hand your change back – one big pile of bills, coins, and a receipt. Would it really kill you to hand them to me separately the way it was hammered into my thick skull by the owner of the pizza place I worked at in my tender youth? If he ever caught you just dumping a wad of change in a customer’s hand you’d be on dishwasher duty before you knew what hit you.

Speaking of restaurants, what happened to actually having hostess/wait experience before working at mid/high level eateries? We were walking downtown the other night and decided to have a drink at semi-new place. The restaurant was practically empty. The hostess greeted us and we asked to be seated at a table overlooking the sidewalk (it’s all about people watching). She asked if it was for just drinks or dinner? When we said drinks she seemed exasperated and said “ok, these tables are for dinner but since we’re not busy I’ll let you sit there. But if I need the table I’m going to ask you to move.” Really? Do you think we’ll ever go back with that attitude? Not. I would have walked out, but once I have my mind set on an adult beverage I’m like a big dumb dog trying to get ball out from under the couch. Single minded, I don’t quit. Not sure why I don’t have that attitude in business, working out, gardening…

What got me started down this train of thought was McDonalds. I have to preface that it’s a rare event for me to dine at the golden arches. However I was making a multi-state drive and ended up in Winnemucca Nevada, hungry and in need of gas (the refined, dead dinosaur, petrol kind). One’s dining choices in the middle of nowhere are pretty limited, so off to Ray Kroc’s legacy I went. The visit started badly from the get-go. Generally speaking, I tend to be a rule follower. If someone went to all the trouble of creating a rule, heck you may as well follow it. Even as rigid as I am there are times when it seems appropriate to bend or interpret rules to fit the current situation. I found myself staring at the breakfast menu. I asked if they were serving lunch. The gal at the counter glanced at her watch and said, “I can’t serve you lunch for three more minutes.” Really? She’s going to make me wait for three minutes? Sure enough. I stepped back and we stared at each other like some sort of weird Mexican stand-off for three minutes. At the stroke of the hour she flipped the menus from breakfast to lunch and said, “Ok now I can serve you.” Made me wonder if somewhere off in McDonald’s corporate headquarters there’s a dark room full of monitors and technicians. All intently watching employees via secret cameras and hoping to catch someone serving a cheeseburger too early.

Speaking of corporate headquarters, I’m all in favor of the famous Micky-D’s efficiency and speed in food prep. I understand the need for the numbered menus. Simply asking for a number 3 is an unbelievable time savings. Heck, one could just have a sign printed and hold it up – no human conversation needed! The problem I faced with the keeper of universal breakfast and lunch times who was serving me was that the number 3 was close… but not exactly what I wanted. I said “I’ll have a quarter pounder with cheese and…” Like a drill sergeant she barked “Do you want a number 3!?” “Uhhm, if it’s cheaper sure. But I’d like large fries…” She looked at me like the soup nazi from Seinfeld and sighed, “So a number 3, up-sized fries. Will that be all?” She was starting to scare me a bit, but I had to press on. “I’d like coffee instead of a soda.” She looked at me for approximately 20 seconds without a word and then started taping buttons on her register like she was programming a missile shot. “That will be $8.63. A regular number 3 and a side coffee would have been cheaper.” At least I didn’t go through the drive-thru. As the famous life coach Leo Getz says, “They f*** you at the drive thru!”

Considering the IQ of the average retail employee these days is somewhere near a mossy boulder… I don’t see my tolerance level with humanity getting any better as I get older. Sigh. Maybe I’ll just go yell at pigeons in the park. That usually makes me feel better.