Winning Hearts And Minds

This morning I was procrastinating. This isn’t a surprise to anyone who knows me – I could win awards with my ability to procrastinate. Anyway, in my effort to avoid doing something actually useful I was catching up on Tay and Microsoft’s PR disaster. You have to marvel at the blind naivety of the folks who didn’t put any sort of filters in place. Anyone who’s been on the internet for more than about fifteen minutes could have predicted what was going to happen. The interwebs are full of trolls.

Moving on I found a post of pictures of office workers who had their food stolen out of the fridge. That’s some funny stuff right there. Then I started thinking about it. It’s happened to most of us. Your lunch goes missing from the break room fridge. Someone microwaves some nasty smelling three day old fish or fermenting eel, turning the entire third floor into a hazmat zone. What the hell is wrong with these people? What’s worse is that these are your coworkers, people you know, not some random stranger on the street.

The interesting part is that every single one of us would claim that our circle of friends and acquaintances would never do such a thing. It seems like every other posting on theFacebook is some inspirational quote about peace, love, rising above the negativity, and really good fried tofu recipes. Meanwhile it took less than 24 hours to shut down Tay with a barrage of some of the most vile stuff you can imagine – for no reason other than the amusement of trolls. Someone is out there committing this asshatery and it’s not just evil-doers.

I suspect there’s a whole lot of people out there leading a double life. They post the cute Easter meme on Pinterest, then leave their dog poop in the middle of the trail for someone else to deal with (or sidewalk if you’re a civilized New Yorker or Parisian). Someone is throwing all that garbage out the car window to collect on the side of the freeway. Enough of us are watching the Kardashians and Maury Povich that their ratings keep them going strong. Drive on any California freeway and the sheer number of asshole motorists will turn any Bernie Sanders voter into a seething road rage maniac… who will then go into the office and donate money because Sally’s niece is in the hospital and post a few adorable puppy pictures to their Instagram.

I’d like to believe that because of our opposable thumbs and ability to appreciate Ansel Adams, we can rise above negativity and mean people. I think the reality is that we’re one zombie apocalypse, water, food, or bourbon shortage away from survival of the fittest. When Amazon goes dark and you can’t get your selfie stick v.7 shipped the next day, I suspect our societal cohesion will disappear in a hurry.in-case-of-zombies-attack-break-glass-shotgun-apocalypse-now-meme

What does all this mean? I’m not sure. I don’t think it has to be depressing. Go appreciate some art. Get outside and see some nature. Try not to be a complete jerk to your fellow man. Pay it forward. Oh, and stock up on bourbon, toilet paper, and 12 gage double-ought buckshot.

On Weight Loss. And Banana Hammocks

So, I recently lost some weight.  Not “oh my god did you have gastric bypass surgery” amounts, but enough that’s its noticeable.  It started after an Easter meal.  Everyone was loosening belts and groaning about how full they were.  This led to the inevitable mutterings of “damn, I’ve got to get in shape/lose a few pounds/get ready for summer”.  Someone joked that they should try to get on that Biggest Loser show.  You can guess what happened next… “hey, why don’t we do one of those biggest loser contests ourselves?!”  Start and end dates are set, entrance fees and weigh-in criteria created, and a winners prize is defined.  A line in the sand is drawn and off we go.

With clothes on, probably nobody would call me fat.  My face gets kinda full and my upper body isn’t quite in proportion with my little toothpick legs.  However, lurking underneath my stylish hipster outfits was a BMI of 27.  Man-boobs drifting towards support-worthy.  A spare tire that actually qualifies as a tire.  I had the consistency of Jell-O or one of those Tempur-Pedic mattresses.  It sorta looks firm, but touch it and it’s surprisingly soft and jiggly.  Are you getting turned on yet?  Never mind, don’t answer that.

Anyway to make a long story short, much of that is gone.  Not completely. There’s still plenty of work to do.  It’s a little disturbing how vain you can get once you start feeling better about yourself.  I don’t leave the house now without just the right pair of skinny jeans, Justin Bieber belt, and enough product in my hair to trap pigeons.  Now that the excess adipose tissue is gone, I’ve discovered that I was born with a shockingly complete lack of muscle tone.  I’ve purchased a Jane Fonda Thighmaster and a ShakeWeight from craigslist and am working on rectifying this genetic injustice.

Completely unrelated to the start of the weight loss contest, I enrolled in a nutrition class.  This, combined with the fact that A) I lost weight, and B) I read the Intranet, makes me extremely qualified to advise you on weight loss strategies.  Here are a few tips from chapter 113 of my upcoming autobiography:

  • Ice cream, pie, soda, and massive piles of steak nachos are not part of any diet.  Sorry to burst your bubble, but there is no magic combination of pills or “toning” exercises that will counteract that number of calories.
  • I ate about 1500 calories a day.  Yes you need to keep track.  Life’s a bitch like that sometimes.
  • There are no “free” days.  It’s simple physics. To lose weight you have to burn more than you take in.  Exceed your calorie target and it will either take you longer to reach your goal or you’ll need to run a marathon to break even.
  • Lots of protein, frightening amounts of steamed vegetables, and saturated fat.
  • Water. Lots of water. Get used to peeing. Often.
  • Exercise. Not just stroll on the treadmill while reading a book “exercise”, but real work.  Like you might barf up a lung levels of work.  Not what you wanted to hear. Sorry ’bout that.
  • Get the ab toning “flex belt” http://www.theflexbelt.com/  It’s a miracle device. Builds abs of steel without working out. Trust me, would I lie?

With an upcoming trip to a Mexican beach, it’s time to go shop for a bathing suit for my newly svelte self.  One last tip guys (apologies to any European friends), unless you’re swimming competitively, a speedo is not ok.  Yo, pasty white British dudes – only about 1% of the male population has the body to legitimately wear a banana hammock. You’re not one of them.  A real man wears jorts.

Voting Rights And Dr Laura

We recently completed a 12 hour multi-state drive to see family for the holidays.  A mostly uneventful trip. Wake up at the crack of dawn, curse that you didn’t pack the night before, drink approximately six quarts of coffee to ensure you have to stop twenty minutes up the road, start driving, turn around because you forgot something, turn around again because you can’t remember if you locked the front door, and then hit the open road.  Much of the route we take is across some of the most desolate country imaginable. Hundreds of miles without towns or the ability to get a venti no whip mochafrappalattechino (with an extra shot). Brutal.

My normal approach to this sort of drive is a two-step attempt to drive my wife insane. First, I find a semi-truck. Then I drive behind it for hours. I don’t like passing on two-lane roads and I don’t like expensive tickets so I’m happy to just set the cruise control and, well… cruise.  For my wife, god put other cars on the road simply so you’d have something to pass. What’s the point of having a gas pedal if you’re not going to pass people?  Step two of my plan to push her over the brink is my music playlist. A bizarre collection of ’70’s funk, Rage Against the Machine, reggae, electronica/techno dance tunes (the 27 minute remix), and Johnny Cash. Somewhere around hour six she’ll have developed a frightening zombie look as she announces “If you’d like to continue living you’ll pass this f*&%ing truck, and it’s time to listen to something else”.

I’m all about self-preservation, so we commence scanning the satellite radio dial for talk shows. Eventually we stumbled upon the Dr. Laura show.  I’d listened to her briefly several times in the past, but this was my first concentrated dose of the original model for Dr. Phil. I must say, it left me… frightened.  All those people calling in? It’s truly a horrible thought to realize that they are out there, walking around amongst us freely – without supervision and in the wild.

“Dr. Laura? Thank you so much for taking my call. You’re my mentor and it’s such an honor to talk to you. My question? Oh, yes… Well, see it started when my mother-in-law accused me of stealing mail out of her mailbox. I told her she was crazy and then I tried to make my husband go talk to her but he didn’t. It’s been eight months now and I’m not speaking to her ’cause I deserve an apology. My question? Oh, well, see the thing is we’re hav’n a party for my nephew who’s gett’n out of rehab and I don’t want to invite her on account of it being all awkward and all. My husband says I have to invite her. So, what should I do? Shouldn’t she apologize to me before she gets to go to the party?”

The global energy gap, fiscal cliffs, John Kerry as Secretary of State, impoverished children without iPhones – there are so many real crises in this world and this woman is worried about in-law party etiquette? It went on. Caller after caller. Imagined insults. Husbands treating wives like doormats but she really does love him. I spent all $9,000 of our savings on powerball tickets and now my wife is pissed. I have unresolved issues because my sister wouldn’t sit next to me on the bus twenty years ago.

These people are walking around amongst us, pretending to be functioning adults. Even worse – they’re voters. Ultimately these are the people who are voting on pretty complex issues that impact the economy, my pocketbook, and whether or not we’ll use federal funds to build the New Jersey Hurricane Sandy Memorial statue and Walmart tribute center.

It’s clearly time we establish some voter qualifications in this country. I propose the following simple requirements you must meet in order to receive your voter identification card:

  • You must either own property or have purchased a vehicle (of at least $5k in value) in the last five years AND be current on all payments.
  • You must have a job working a minimum of 30 hours a week, or have sufficient savings and/or retirement funds to support yourself and family.
  • Students must be paying for their own tuition or through the military.
  • You must be able to identify the number of zeros in a billion (multiple choice).
  • You must be able to identify the current vice president, speaker of the house, and senate majority leader.
  • Lawyers, people who own more than one cat, and drivers of those tiny little roller-skate looking electric cars are automatically disqualified.

Simple solutions that will get us back on the right track. Time for me to go watch Dr. Phil. I understand he has on some guy who talks to his mailbox because he believes it’s really a portal for him to speak to his brother who went missing twenty years ago.  It’s gunna be a good one!

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.

On Walking Goats

On the trails the other day I passed a couple walking a goat and a llama on leashes. Neither farm animal seemed particularly pleased to be on a leash or out for a stroll. The llama looked fairly petrified, especially as I went by on bike. The goat wasn’t exactly being walked. It looked a little more like it was being drug up the hill. The couple on the other hand were perfectly happy with their crunchy-granola, Santa Cruz vibe. I’m sure they were convinced that walking farm animals like domesticated pets made perfect sense. I could only think WTF? It’s funny the things we do that make perfect sense to us but must look nuts to the rest of the world.

  • I like to run (pavement, dirt, trails, doesn’t matter) in Vibram Five Fingers.
  • I don’t mind getting up early and driving 4+ hours to hike/ski and then drive home. At the same time I don’t like getting up early to do something that’s only a 10 minute drive away.
  • If it takes longer than a couple of minutes to prepare lunch I’d rather just eat fast food… yet I don’t think twice about spending hours prepping for dinner.
  • I do not like wind under any circumstances. I have no problem doing stuff in the rain.
  • I’d rather sweat and suffer than take the time to stop and take off a layer and be comfortable.
  • It really bothers me to go somewhere if I haven’t looked at it/found it on a map first. Makes no difference if it’s a store in-town or a lake in the backcountry. I don’t like finding places on the fly.
  • Public speaking to a small group is much worse than a large group in terms of pucker-factor.
  • I’m very self-conscious about “looking” like I’m good at something if I’m not. I would never wear a fancy cycling kit or ride a super expensive bike because I’m not a very good cyclist. I live in fear of looking like a poser so I end up wearing ratty old t-shirts rather than something that’s probably more functional.
  • I don’t think twice about hiking, cycling, backpacking, skiing, etc… solo. Going to a movie or restaurant by myself – will never happen.

And of course – who’d be dumb enough to give up a perfectly good job and house in the silicon valley to move to Idaho with only a vague plan for what comes next? WTF?