Watching the Signs

Those of us in striking range of the Big Sleep share many commonalities in our physical and spiritual development. (Or is that deterioration? I forget.)  Many of these kind of suck.  In fact, most of them kind of suck.  In fact/in fact, right now I can’t think of any that don’t suck!!!

But today’s helping of deep insights, brought to you compliments of the exorbitant amount of free time in retirement devotable to disturbing thoughts, will address two of the really suckable sub-topics contained in our shared Book of Life (Chapter Nine – When Your Mind and Body Go to Shit).  These are Memory Loss and Guilt.

In my literary wanderings I’ve frequently come across web sites that provide information of a physiological nature intended to help us understand such things as Why Octogenarians Should Continue to Wear Condoms (YUCK!), the Top Ten Foods That Contribute to Yeast Infections  (seems like bread would be one but for some reason that didn’t make the list), Why Boners Melt as You Age (Climate Change), and of particular interest to Seniors, Signs of Memory Loss Leading to Dementia.

At this stage life I’ve begun to experience signs of memory loss.  Why that is I forget, but the other day something happened that stands out as a shining example of a seemingly minor lapse of memory which could portend serious consequences for me in the future.

Over the weekend I accompanied my son, his wife and my two granddaughters, ages 5 and 7,  on a visit to a local Fall Fest thing (it wasn’t called that but I don’t remember the exact name) which included a remarkable range of animals from around the world.  We saw them, petted them, fed them, smelled them – pretty much all of the things you do with animals, except for the sheep.

I read somewhere that there are other things that can be done with sheep, mostly in England I think.   What things I don’t remember but for some reason that lapse of memory isn’t particularly concerning.  I did notice the keen eye the sheep on display seemed to be keeping on some of the fathers staring at them. Whatever.

To continue, the following day I was texting with my sister and she was asking what I thought of the Fall Fest adventure.

I responded that first of all I thought it was pretty expensive.

It cost my granddaughters twenty bucks apiece to get in and another twenty or so to feed a nickel’s worth of little carrot sticks to giant Brahman bulls and other creatures – money which the poor kids will have to work overtime at their Kindergarten and 2nd Grade Navajo Rug Making Classes to recoup.  But if that helps to fix the myopia problem Brahman bulls apparently have, I guess I’m good with that.

But back on topic here.

As I continued texting I described the variety of animals on display, including the aforementioned Brahman bulls, pygmy goats, ostriches and….suddenly my mind froze.  Try as I might I simply couldn’t remember the name of the critters which I found particularly fun to watch.  After several minutes of confusion and frustration I finally gave up and texted “….and those cute Australian bouncing animals.”

As for her texted response, which included a lot of laughing emojis,  I know it wasn’t Wannabies and I don’t think it was Kimona Dragons or Coca Cola Bears either.

But no matter.  That experience was a wake up.  If I couldn’t remember the name of a cute Australian bouncing animal now (a Dingle maybe?), what on earth could I expect my memory to be like in one, two, ten or even five days?

Who knows.   Putting the best possible spin on this whole episode I’ve decided to take comfort in the fact that I can still clearly remember the day Australia was welcomed as our Fifty Fourth State.

In closing, it seems like there was something else I was going to write about but what that was escapes me. I feel bad about that.  Actually I feel a little guilty.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Retirement Thoughts | Leave a comment

Politics, Cooking Shows, Home Makeovers, Reality TV and Miscellaneous

I’ve now been successfully retired for over ten years.  The definition of ‘successful retirement’ means two things:  a)  I’m still here – and  – b)  I have become expert at watching television.

Those of you facing retirement soon  or perhaps just embarking on your (hopefully) slow mental and physical deterioration may wonder what to expect as you disassociate yourself from real interaction with real people while you dissolve into a pool of stagnant cortisol, your only window into the real world provided by what you see on Cable TV.

The following is meant to give you an idea of today’s Cable TV environment as compiled  through my highly sophisticated powers of observation and analysis.

Politics as Reported by Today’s NEWS

Let’s begin our walk through of Cable TV Land  with a discussion of Politics as presented to us 24×7 by innumerable television stations. (We’ll ignore Social Media insofar as this is a discussion of what’s served up on TV, AND as we all know it is illegal to publish anything on the Internet which isn’t the truth.  Or so I’ve been told).

Moving on, if you’re chained to your couch all day and your sole physical activity is the workout you’re giving your thumb using the Remote, it is inevitable you will eventually stumble upon one of the many stations purporting to ‘serve’ you with the NEWS OF THE DAY.   You may be experiencing extreme pain in your thumb from the overwork of channel surfing and if so, tarry a moment to hear what is being ‘served’ up today as news.

The first, second, third (and so on) and last thing you will learn is that ‘Trump Sucks’.

This fact will be repeated incessantly.  Quite often it will be shouted out in discussion group sessions wherein the ‘winner’ of the Best Reason Why Trump Sucks will be the person most able to out scream other participants.

(For purposes of this article I will not enter into a philosophical discussion of whether Trump actually Sucks or not.  I believe the facts speak for themselves and the arbiters of all that’s good and holy who live on Mount Olympus have pretty much settled on the answer to that question.  I should point out, however, that at this point in time if the ‘news’ that Trump Sucks is in fact really news to you it’s probably important that you make every attempt to crawl out from under the rock that’s been sitting on your head for the past couple of years.)

Once enlightened that Trump Sucks based on the channel your wounded thumb settled on, as it recovers and you resume surfing, you will undoubtedly land on yet another station with a similar format and be subjected again to the non stop broadcasting of the news that Trump Sucks.

WARNING:  It IS possible you may accidentally rest your ‘in danger of becoming gangrenous’ thumb on something called FOX NEWS.  If you do, don’t be fooled.  The news as reported on this channel MAY report something to the effect that Trump Doesn’t Suck.

Carefully note that virtually all of the Trump Doesn’t Suck reporting done by this channel is presented by hot women with great cleavage, or by Tomi Lahren – a precocious fifteen year old in training to become a hot woman with great cleavage.  You can disregard such reporting insofar as if you’re a man, you actually aren’t HEARING what is being said.  You’re just developing serious eye strain.  If you’re a woman, you’re probably rabid with jealousy and you haven’t heard a word that’s being said anyway.

And that will be the sum total of what you learn from the news each and every single day.

A possible exception is you may also be treated to a weather report presented by someone called a Weather Bunny in which you will be informed that the world will end today and each and every subsequent day included in the five day forecast.  Don’t sweat that.  It’s bullshit.

Cooking Shows

Moving on through Cable TV Land, the next apparently can’t do without offerings are something called, generically, COOKING SHOWS.

How to describe these?   It’s difficult to put into words.

For starters, what we CAN say is there are hundreds of these stations.  If there weren’t your Cable TV provider would be forced to admit that the 582 Cable Channels you’re paying for actually include only 15 channels or so that AREN’T Cooking Shows.

Next, as we move from Cooking Show to Cooking Show we note that apparently to cook anything requires availability of a kitchen whose footprint would dwarf the likely square footage which you personally inhabit along with your wife, children, pets and n’er do well mooching brother in law.

As you watch a recipe coming to life you’re astounded to find that it takes easily ten to fifteen different little glass dishes filled with a little bit of something that eventually gets tossed into the same pan to cook.  AND you never, ever get to see how long it takes to wash all of those little glass dishes and pans after whatever is being concocted is concocted.

Likewise, you learn that cooking requires an unending supply of different sized and shape pans, each bubbling merrily away at just the right temperatures and in the time frame which fits exactly into what is needed and when.

To your amazement you will also find that in Cable TV Land, mankind has developed stove technology to the point where food to be cooked can be put into a magical oven on the top level and voila!, removed fully cooked from the bottom level of the oven instantaneously.  If you thought the Biblical story of the Loaves and Fishes sounded suspect, here’s your proof.  Apparently, the Hebrews created the magical oven centuries ago but somehow the secret, similar to the recipe for making Greek Fire, was lost until the advent of Cooking Shows.

Eventually if you’ve seen enough Cooking Shows it begins to dawn on you that there are at  thousands different ways to cook anything.  AND, you’ll also discover that the thousands of different ways are utterly meaningless insofar as most of what’s being cooked you’ve never even heard of.  And if you did, you wouldn’t eat that stuff anyway.

Finally, be aware that the latest trend in Cooking Shows is to have wannabe or already are chefs compete against one another by giving them a bunch of ingredients which you either don’t recognize or if you did you wouldn’t feed to your dog.  After an incredibly tense period of chopping things up and throwing those little dish contents into the pan out comes something you’d never, never eat and the ‘Judges’ decide whose monstrosity tastes the best.

This trend has devolved from having real chefs compete to having rookie chefs paired against one another, and now even children are now competing, the latter usually producing something which with very little imagination you can easily see the Judges chewing up and spitting into a slop bucket as soon as the camera leaves them.

Home Makeovers

HGTV.  Who said Rome wasn’t built in a day?

The sheer number of channels offering home makeover ‘entertainment’ is dwarfed only by the number of Cooking Show channels.  The probable reason for this is it’s easier and cheaper to fill little glass dishes with stuff and cook instantaneous meals using the magical ovens than it is to draw architectural plans, obtain financing, engage contractors, purchase and deliver building materials, obtain building permits from bribed public servants, fire non performing contractors, hire new ones, pour concrete and let it set – well, you get the picture.

Nonetheless, every day in Cable TV Land we are treated to the spectacle of usually two Hosts, one of whom is often a hot woman with great cleavage who attempts to convince us during the show that she really does know something about construction as evidenced by her ability to pick up a hammer, and the other either a David Hasselhoff  look alike who never worked a day in construction or a smarmy guy in an ill fitting suit.

These folks first walk us through the pathetic before shape of whatever structure needs a makeover.  Sometimes it’s even entertaining if this occurs right in front of the current inhabitants of the structure.  Must be a real upper to be standing in front of the cameras while Ms. Cleavage, Mr. Smarmy/Hasselhoff comment upon the filth, mold and really awful unsanitary conditions in which you’ve been raising your family.

Ah well.  So on we go. Cleavage/Smarmy/Hasselhoff thankfully have the solution to whatever the problem is and in the blink of an eye all of the aforementioned preparatory work is done, construction begins, ‘surprise’ obstacles are overcome (Good Lord!  We found the toilet actually empties into the kitchen sink!) and kaboom, we have a beautiful, brand new environment built within an hour.

Fade to the current inhabitants tearfully gazing upon their new Taj Mahal surroundings, Cleavage/Smarmy/Hasselhoff waving goodbye as they walk into the sunset (probably heading for some cheap Motel for you know what), credits roll and NOBODY EVER SEEMS TO GET PAID FOR ANYTHING!!!

Bet the kids are just happy their chances of getting bit by a rat are considerably diminished.

Reality TV

Admit it.  If it weren’t for shows like America’s Got Talent (AGT), American Idol, The Voice, American Ninja Warrior (ANW)  and the growing number of Channels with derivative formats, the Entertainment Industry’s talent pool would be about as deep as the Dead Sea in the middle of August.

American Idol led the way in presenting what used to be called ‘Talent Shows’ in the old days and in the beginning was pretty entertaining as we watched a good mix of truly talented performers move ahead in the competition while perfectly awful singers and performers humiliated themselves, generously bashed with insults by a Brit in a T-Shirt.

As the years have gone by this show has proceeded to embarrass itself as the Judges either mellowed or had their lives threatened by the losing and humiliated Bulgarian Brother’s Tonsil Band.  Nowadays, even the backstories of the competitors are lame (who knew there were so many opera singers living in trailer parks in this Country?) and seldom does the Brit T-Shirt guy even bother to mention how much most of the auditioning competitors suck.

This genre, collectively called Reality TV, fills the Cable waves with scads of ‘acts’ that, as time goes by, are either repetitive, silly, or even semi-suicidal as real people reach for the brass ring only to be cast back into life situations which leave them as has beens with nothing but an asterisk on their resume documenting their attempt at greatness on some Reality TV Show.

But hey, if that asterisk gives you an edge on that McDonald’s window order taker job, most certainly go with it!

Moving on, the absolute silliest Reality TV Shows are those which pretend to follow young men and women as they try to develop romantic relationships.  The Bachelor and The Bachelorette are the top contenders for Most Stupid Concept in this category.

I mean, if these shows were really ‘Reality’,  instead of those stupid rose ceremonies, the Bachelor guy would be given a case of condoms and each ‘suitor-ess’ or whatever they call the female supplicants would each be given an adequate supply of IUD’s.  (Naturally, the closer you get to the end of a Bachelor Season, the more IUD’S the diminishing number of female contestants would be given.)  The Bachelorette series would likewise involve an appropriate distribution of safe sex products.

The one TV Reality Show you might enjoy is American Ninja Warrior (ANW)  I have to hand it to the male and female competitors on this show.  These people are the real deal when it comes to toughness, strength, agility, stamina and (usually) their ability to strike solid/cushioned objects full face and fall into a cauldron of boiling oil.  (Ok, I made that up.  It’s really just water but wouldn’t it be REALITY COOL if it really was boiling oil?).

Another thing I like about ANW is that as an ancient, couch bound retiree, I can watch the show and actually feel myself reaching, jumping, straining, and climbing right along with the contestants.  Or at least I used to until I pulled a groin muscle fantasizing about doing one of their stunts.

Miscellaneous

For those of us of a certain age, our TV Channel selection was limited to Channels 2, 5, 7 and 9.  Eventually Channel 11 appeared as the start of Public Television and did and continues to do a reasonable job of providing solid, fairly sophisticated entertainment and shows which serve to increase one’s knowledge of the world around us.  Bravo for them.

On the down side those PBS telethons which seem to be broadcast every other day or something like that are most definitely repetitive, boring, even annoying.  Kind of seems like an exercise in Technological Street Begging.

Then came UHF TV stations, followed by Cable and Satellite TV.  Today’s Cable TV environment has something for everyone (there’s even an interesting Channel called AHC which stands for American Heroes Channel but if you watch it often enough it looks more like the All Hitler Channel with its constant documentaries of Hitler’s life and politics) and as you move forward in retirement you’ll likely have the opportunity to sample them all.

I heartily encourage you to do just that as you begin to shuffle off your mortal coils.

And please let me know if you come across one of those magical ovens!

 

 

 

 

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A Christmas Story

Thank You and A Merry Christmas to You, Dana

 The buzz these days is all about the decline of bricks and mortar stores with retail sales rapidly moving to the internet.

And it may well come to pass that people soon won’t know what it’s like to walk into a store and actually interact with another human being.

What follows is both a Christmas story as well as what to me was a shopping experience I cannot imagine occurring in an all electronic sales world.  Regardless, my recent experience shopping this Christmas at J.C. Penney’s is a memory I’ll take with me forever.

Several months ago my dear wife of 47 years was diagnosed with cancer.  That tragic news changed our lives and things will likely never be the same for us.  One thing that’s changed is I’ve assumed responsibility for all of our shopping needs (at least those we can’t or don’t want to conduct over the internet).

Like most cancer patients who’ve undergone chemotherapy, at this point in her treatment my wife has lost most of her hair and in the plans is a visit to go shopping for a wig after the Holidays.  In the meantime, although she is largely homebound, we do have some Holiday visits with relatives on our calendar.  These will be poignant for obvious reasons and I know my wife has been concerned over her appearance.  Again, like most cancer patients she has lost a lot of weight and dressing for a Holiday party is an unfortunate stressor at an otherwise normally stressful time.

Two days ago, I was out doing food shopping and also had with me a list of presents I was to pick up at various stores along our main shopping venues located on Randall Road in Algonquin, Illinois.

In the back of my mind it occurred to me that in lieu of a wig, I could perhaps pick up some kind of head band which my wife could use to cover herself in the event we were able to spend some time with the relatives.

It so happened I was driving by a shopping area in which a J. C. Penney’s store was located.  Thinking I might find a suitable head band I made my way through the Christmas shopping jammed parking lot and entered the store.

I asked the first salesperson I came across where I might find women’s head bands.  I was given general directions to the Women’s Wear area.

I should mention that like most men, I suppose, I am terrible at shopping for women.  I don’t know sizes, styles, prices, what’s in fashion, what isn’t – pretty much everything men leave to women to know and act on when they go shopping for themselves.

I managed to find the Women’s Wear section and noticed a woman salesperson walking briskly to take care of business somewhere in the store.  In her hand were several outfits on hangers.

I excused myself and asked her where I might find a head band for my wife.  She paused and thought for a moment and I could tell from her response it would definitely take some searching.

On impulse I mentioned to her my wife’s cancer and my desire to get her something to wear on her head while visiting during the Holidays.  I noticed from her J.C Penney’s name tag that her name was Dana.

When I told her that about my wife, something remarkable happened.  She looked at me with a combination of sympathy as well as a surprising look of determination.  She hung the items she was carrying on a passing rack and said, “Oh, I am so sorry to hear that.  You come with me.”

With that she quickly went to a corner in the department and, stopping in front of the items sold there, she looked at me directly and said, “All right now, you need to understand that in cold weather the body loses heat most quickly through the extremities, including hands, feet and head.  With your wife’s hair loss she is first going to need to wear something warm on her head to prevent heat loss.”

With that, she directed my attention to a selection of women’s hats, similar to stocking hats only more stylish and made of a material I could well imagine would keep out the cold.  With her help I picked out a hat I thought my wife would like.

Next, she told me, “And I would suggest that you buy your wife a scarf, one she can use as both a covering and a fashion accessory.”  She explained that such a scarf could be arranged in such a way as to look nice while serving as a covering and that the internet would provide information on different ways of arranging it.

I picked out a scarf I thought would look nice and Dana told me she liked my choice.

Finally, she explained I should visit a store that sold medical supplies and buy a roll of self adhesive wrapping of one to two inches in width which would be used to provide a foundation for the scarf and hat.  This would not only provide some warmth but would also keep the other items in place.  I assured her I would.

All of the above took somewhere in the neighborhood of fifteen minutes, allowing for my fumbling around in the unfamiliar women’s clothing world.

By this time I was totally amazed to find someone like Dana with that much knowledge who would spend that much time on your average Joe Customer during the busiest shopping time of the year. I thanked her over and over, becoming more flustered as I realized I couldn’t really express the true depths of my appreciation.

She gently quieted me and said, “Please, I’m glad to be of help.  My daughter was diagnosed with cancer a while ago and everything I’m telling you we learned through her experience.  Fortunately, we were able to save my daughter and I wish you the best in your wife’s outcome.”

By this time I was nearly in tears but Dana wasn’t through helping yet.

“Come with me,” she said again and led me over to a check out register which wasn’t currently in service.  She produced a key and proceeded to begin checking me out.  In the midst of this she asked if I’d been given a coupon when I entered the store and I told her I hadn’t.

She directed me to where the coupons were being distributed and I returned with it in hand.

Upon finalizing checkout I discovered the coupon was for 50% off of items purchased.

When all was done I once again expressed my sincere thanks for all of her help.  We exchanged Holiday wishes and shook hands.

As I drove home (or more accurately to a drug store to get the self adhesive tape wrap) I found myself stunned at the kindness, understanding, and willingness to help an old man as exhibited by Dana.  Thoughts of ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’, ‘A Christmas Carol’, O.Henry’s famous Christmas tale and others came to mind and I wondered what it was that led me to make that unscheduled stop and to find such a wonderful and giving person in Dana.

And so I hope Dana and her family have a wonderful Holiday Season. And I’ll say a special prayer for her.

And I also will thank God that J.C. Penney placed those bricks and mortar in that shopping mall and placed Dana there at exactly in my time of need.

 

 

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Stephen Hawking, The Media, Lawsuits, and Junior Mints

I don’t know what it is, but sometimes the planets come into alignment, the Hand of God reaches out to nudge the Universe one way or another, a Vulcan mind meld is applied irresponsibly, or perhaps humanity reaches an apex in stupidity derived from the Butterfly Effect triggered by one of Grandpa’s SBD farts blamed on the dog.

This morning is one of those times. (Sorry, dog.)

In its ongoing desperate attempt to remain relevant and in a classic example of the inmates running the asylum of the Media, today’s Chicago Tribune runs an article with the headline “Illinois Suit  Challenges Junior Mints on Space in Packaging”.

The headline itself was enough to send me into convulsions, the result of which may be a headline tomorrow reading something like “Illinois Man Files Lawsuit After Suffering Coffee Burns to Groin Area After Reading Headline About Junior Mints Lawsuit”.  I’m still thinking about pursuing that.

Be that as it may, the gist of the article is that a lawsuit has been filed in a Chicago federal court by a woman claiming ‘there is nearly as much air as candy’ in a box of Junior Mints.

The article goes on in excruciating detail to explain the genesis of the suit (triggered by the purchase of a $1 Box of Junior Mints), the tortuous relationship between the Junior Mints contents and deceptive packaging, a discussion of the pros and cons of empty space left in product packaging (Examples:  We are told ‘the air cushion …protects potato chips from breaking in the bag’ versus in the case of the Junior Mints ‘that empty space can increase the chances that the candies will be damaged because they move around quite a bit inside the hard cardboard box’).

Next we are treated to a history of the litigation filed in various other jurisdictions, resultant court decisions, appeals filed, pending related litigation and so on which might or might not have a bearing on the Junior Mints lawsuit.

Also included is a discussion of the relationships of Junior Mints to the episode of Seinfeld which if you haven’t seen it you really should but which I won’t waste your time here explaining – all of which has absolutely nothing to do with the lawsuit filed but makes for some nostalgic reflection on the good old days when the most disturbing thing about Junior Mints wasn’t the contents of the box but the potential effects of accidentally dropping a Junior Mint into an opened wound during surgery.

(After spending the time reading the article it also occurred to me that if I were a subscriber to the paper version of the newspaper I might have thrown it onto floor laughing.  Having moved on to the online version,  I realized once again how much technology had changed my life.   Throwing my laptop onto the floor laughing would have been a stupid and costly thing to do.  Gotta love serendipity)

Anyway, a number of thoughts came to mind after reading the article.  The first was ‘How could such a thing be considered ‘News’, worth spending the time, mental effort and cost to include in a major metropolitan newspaper?’

I don’t have the answer to that one but assume the Media Gods in their infinite wisdom had once again decided for me that here was information critical to my understanding of the world and events which shape our time.  And thanks for that.

Then, I tried to picture how the conversation went between the litigant (i.e., the buyer of the $1 box of Junior Mints) and the Law Firm that decided to take this case to Court.

One possible (likely?) scenario:

PARTNER IN LAW FIRM:  “Good morning, Mrs. X, what can we do for you today?”

MRS. X:  “Well, I bought this $1 box of Junior Mints yesterday and I was OUTRAGED (see prior blog post re:  OUTRAGE) to find that the entire capacity of space available in the box wasn’t taken up by Junior Mints.  In fact, it looks to me like not only are there Junior Mints in here, there’s also AIR!!!”

PARTNER IN LAW FIRM:  “Hmmm.  How much money do you have?”

MRS. X:  “A lot.”

PARTNER IN LAW FIRM:  “Well, in that case, we’ll be glad to take it.  Your case, that is!(laughs professionally)”.

Finally, I wondered, “How would I, as maker and packager of  Junior Mints, defend myself against such a charge?”

Suddenly, I realized the answer was obvious.

If you’ve been wondering where Stephen Hawking comes into play here….wait for it….

IN FACT, THE SPACE WITHIN THE JUNIOR MINTS BOX NOT OCCUPIED BY JUNIOR MINTS IS ACTUALLY FILLED WITH DARK MATTER!

And with that, your Honor, I rest my case.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Business, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

It’s Outrageous!!!!….And One Other Thought

A few days ago something happened that annoyed me.

I forget what it was exactly but within minutes I realized my reaction to it was WAY inappropriate for the times.

In case you haven’t noticed,  if you bother to watch the Talking Heads or read the online/paper based Anointed Pundits ranting about (insert your topic here), no one seems to have any emotional response to ANYTHING anymore but OUTRAGE.

I remember the old days.  Way back then, if someone said some shit to you that you didn’t like or maybe you read something online or saw something on the Tube to which you took exception, your reaction may have run the gamut of emotions from disappointment or mild annoyance to just plain annoyance (never quite sure what the differentiator was there – I just knew I could tell the difference), or you might have felt Slightly Pissed Off to Full Blown Pissed Off.  You may have even internally escalated things to the point of feeling Anger, or, if you’re the type that hears voices in your head, plain old unhealthy Rage

(Of course, in an alternate universe you may even just have ignored the whole thing but I don’t want to get off topic here.)

No, today’s standard, nay expected, reaction to things said, events that occur, gestures made , eyebrows furrowed, quizzical looks, differences of opinion – pretty much anything with which you disagree – is OUTRAGE.

Don’t like it that you were stopped by a cop for having a tail light or license plate missing AND were then found to have a pound of crystal meth in your trunk along with a decapitated body?  Well, if you’re 1/10th Inuit Indian on your father’s side, the media story will likely start with the headline, “Minority Person OUTRAGED Over Police Profiling.”

Don’t like waiting in line for your turn at the trough in the Men’s Room at Wrigley Field? Push your way through the even longer suffering line waiting in front of the Women’s Room, declare yourself Transgender, get into a fight with a patient WWW contender, get arrested and you get the headline, “LGBTQ (What’s with the Q?  Isn’t that redundant or does is stand for Questionable?)  Person OUTRAGED Over Denial of Access to Women’s Room’.

Got an annual income of a gazillion dollars, you own Ecuador, and find your Property Taxes have increased by $10,000?  Call a like minded individual who controls the media in your locale (or Mark Zuckerberg who apparently controls ALL media in ALL locales through Facebook – Russian subsidiaries included) and you get a headline, “Friend of Gabillionaire OUTRAGED Over Friend’s Property Tax Increase.”

Live in a ‘Geographically Disadvantaged Urban Boundary Owned by Absentee Owners and Populated by Poor Minorities With a 250% Increase in Gun Deaths’  and get capped by a cop while you’re reloading an Uzi which you just emptied at the cop and for some unknown reason you’re such a rotten shot you completely missed him/her?  Inevitably your headline will read “Father Pfleger (or whomever is your local defender of all that’s good and holy) OUTRAGED Over Unjustified Police Shooting of Future Assumed Rhodes Scholar”.

The examples cited of course incorporate some of today’s hot button issues and are in some respects perhaps a bit hyperbolic 🙂 ; however the term OUTRAGE is now being used to describe reactions to even the most mundane of situations considered as newsworthy and reported as such by today’s media.

If you don’t believe that,  simply take out a blank piece of paper and  for the next two weeks every time you hear or read about someone being OUTRAGED about something place a tick mark on it.   I’m betting you’ll find yourself AMAZED at the results, by which time you may find the media has discovered  people are becoming less OUTRAGED and more AMAZED!  Who knows?

Thank you for reading today’s diatribe.  I actually feel EMPOWERED having written it!

…..and now about that word EMPOWERED…..

AS PROMISED – ONE OTHER THOUGHT

Having been bombarded lately with the Saga of Stormy Daniels As Translated From the Old English I find it one of today’s extreme ironies that a woman who spent much of her adult life making money doing porn movies received what was undoubtedly her biggest payday – for actually keeping her mouth shut!

Think about it.

 

 

Posted in Contemporary Political Thoughts | 2 Comments

Potty Break

It was one of those steaming hot summer days in the suburbs.  The pavement shimmered in the heat and the local swimming pools overflowed from the impact of countless cannon balls and belly flops.

Looking forward to watching my son’s little league game that evening, I dressed in my lightest seersucker suit and spent the day in the comfort of air conditioned corporate servitude.

As five o’clock approached, the guys at the office began discussing plans for the evening, which almost invariably involved a stop at the local watering hole called Barry’s.

With the game starting at six thirty, I knew it would be a brief Barry’s stop for me but agreed to join them for a quick beer.

Now, the thing you need to understand about Barry’s was that each ‘quick beer’ was served in a frosty sixteen-ounce mug.  Aside from being a bargain price-wise, this had another benefit: namely that you theoretically could look your wife square in the eye and, flaming capillaries notwithstanding, swear truthfully that you had “stopped and had A beer”.  The fact that the low single digit beer count multiplied times the ounce factor could represent a couple of quarts of the stuff seemed irrelevant given the promise of wobbly integrity at home.

On this particular night even the walk to my car from the office and the few steps from the parking lot into Barry’s raised a sweat,.  With one eye on the clock, I ordered A beer, a second and then a third until it was time for me to leave for the baseball fields where my wife waited with increasing irritation as game time approached.

The fields on which the games were played were quite elaborate for little league.  None of the Chicago rock strewn sandlots on which I played ball as a kid, these were genuine first class baseball diamonds.  There were four of them, arranged in hub and spoke fashion, with each field having its own backstops, dugouts, bleachers and other spectator seating areas.

The parking lots servicing the fields were located several hundred feet away.  Hoping to reduce my sentence for having cut it so close in arriving just before ‘Play Ball’ was called, I jogged through the oppressive heat of the early evening to where my wife sat.

The jogging had two effects.  First, by the time I flopped into the chaise lounge next to my wife, my suit was soaked;  second, I felt a familiar pressure which I recognized resulted from my rapid departure from Barry’s without the required offering to the porcelain god and which I new would require relief soon.

I made small talk with my wife (“Hi, hon, stopped for a couple of beers at Barry’s”) as I glanced around to determine the whereabouts of the nearest rest room.  To my annoyance I realized that the only facility was a Porta-Potty located far off adjacent to the parking lot.  I knew that in order to keep the ‘Myth of the Single Digit Beer at Barry’s’ safe for future generations I would have to remain seated for at least the first couple of innings, so I hunkered down to tough it out.

The game started and I sat there in increasing discomfort until the third inning when I could stand it no more.  I excused myself and began the long walk to the facilities.  The closer I got, the faster I walked.  The faster I walked in the sweltering heat, the more I perspired.  By the time I made it to the portable bathroom even my socks were ringing wet.

I’m sure you know the type of comfort facility I’m talking about.  It was one of those free standing structures with the spring loaded door, the tiny window for ventilation and the lock latch located on the inside.  I opened the door and stepped in.

As I let go of the door the spring mechanism slammed it shut behind me with a bang.  Actually, it shut with a bang and another sound – sort of a ‘klunk’.  I registered the ‘klunk’ in the back of my mind as I frantically took care of business  which by this time had become my sole purpose in life.

As a flood of relief swept over me my mind wandered, and I realized how really unbearably hot and ripe were my surroundings.  My shirt was wringing wet, my suit was pitted out, sweat was poring from – well, from my pores – and my olfactory senses were in mega revulsion mode from the stench.

Having taken care of business as quickly as possible, I turned around, lifted the latch and pushed on the door.

It refused to budge.

I moved the latch up and down several times with no result, each time slamming my shoulder harder into the door.  As I did so the meaning of the mysterious ‘klunk’ became clear.  The locking mechanism had malfunctioned and I was now locked inside a human waste oven, the temperature of which was well over 100 degrees.

I normally consider myself to be pretty resourceful, however, a survey of my cell in hell offered no potential for escape.  I stood on my toes and peered out the tiny ventilation window, expecting to see salvation in the form of another soul responding to nature’s call walking towards me.   From my vantage point I could see clear across to the baseball diamonds and to my amazement there wasn’t a single person headed for the can.

Hoping that perhaps someone was within earshot in the parking lot I yelled, “Hey, can anybody hear me?  I need help.  I’m locked in the john!”  As I did so, the humor of the situation struck me and I waited for a response, already thinking up clever one liners I could toss out when rescued.  There was no response.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  I couldn’t believe this was happening.

For the next few minutes I repeated my calls until it became obvious there would be no help coming soon. I returned to the tiny window and looked again in vain for help from the direction of the ball fields.

The next twenty minutes were a lifetime.  You’d have thought the kids on those ball diamonds were playing in the World Series, so intent were the parents and other fans on watching the games.  Surely, I said to myself, there must be someone who has to go to the bathroom eventually.

With each passing minute, the temperature and the stench rose in parallel.  I cursed my luck, I cursed my suit, the coat of  which was now doing double duty as a towel to wipe the sweat out of my eyes, and I pretty much cursed everything up to and including Abner Doubleday for inventing the damn game which had brought me to such a ridiculously low place.

Finally, returning to the ventilation window, with relief I saw the figure of a seven or eight year old boy coming towards me from the ball fields.  I let him approach to within twenty feet or so and hollered, “Hey kid, I’m locked in the john.  Help me get out, will you?”

I instantly realized my mistake.

The boy looked up, his eyes widened in terror. He screamed and fled as fast as his little legs would carry him – straight back to the ball fields.  I watched as he gesticulated to the crowd watching the games and pointed in my direction.

Like a scene out of Frankenstein the villagers rose up as one to slay the monster in the castle nee portable bathroom.  These were big villagers, too, and ten or so of the macho vigilantes ran towards me.  I swear I could almost see the lit torches.

Not wishing to take the chance that someone might decide to lynch the pervert in the potty or worse yet, tip the thing over, I began to yell frantically for help as soon as I thought they were in earshot.  Unfortunately, like the villagers, the nearer they approached the louder were their cries of rage and demand for retribution.

Quickly the mob surrounded the facility as I stood tip toe to the window, talking a mile a minute about how I had been locked in the thing for half an hour, how I was losing weight in the putrid steam bath, and, “Honest guys, I didn’t say anything evil to that nice little kid”.

Finally, a guy who resembled a Bulgarian wrestler looked up at me and said, “Buddy, we’d better find that door locked.”  He didn’t need to finish that statement and for one terrifying instant it occurred to me that perhaps I should have tried to open the door at least one more time.  I heard the latch being worked from the outside and to my tremendous relief heard the words, “Damn, the door really is jammed,”  and,  “Wow, that poor s.o.b. in there really got the shaft!.”

When the door was finally pried open I stepped out and stood limply in front of  the crowd of my would be executioners who were now staggering around convulsed in laughter.

I sloshed back to where my wife sat watching the game that by now was in the seventh inning.  She barely glanced at me as I sat down.

After a couple of minutes wet reflection on the absurdity of my experience I managed to convince myself that she should somehow share in the blame.   As I told her what had happened she began to chuckle.  The more I told her the harder she laughed and the more indignant I became.  By the time I finished the epic she was doubled over and all I could manage was a lame complaint to the effect that “I could have died in that thing and you never even would have noticed I was missing!”

I knew I was looking for sympathy in the wrong place as, wiping the tears from her eyes she smiled sweetly and said, “Don’t be silly, they clean those things out at least a couple of times a week.”

I think those are the kinds of things that have kept us together all these years.

Posted in Humer, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Controversy Over Cursive

I’ve lived in the Great State of Illinois all my life.

I use the modifier ‘Great’ for the purpose of distinguishing Illinois from other States known as ‘Not Great’or worse yet ‘Insignificant’ (e.g., Rhode Island).  I also use it because that’s what Politicians here call it, and as everyone knows Illinois Politicians are renowned for their intelligence, honesty, and most importantly their ability to consume and digest prison food.

Our State was created in 1818 becoming the 21st State of the Union.  The State Seal contains the official motto ‘Ego Expendas Pecuniam Tuam’ which translates to ‘I will spend your money.’

When not spending our money or avoiding creating a balanced budget through a loophole in the State Constitutional requirement to create a balanced budget which as written says words to the effect that a balanced budget must be created annually except during years in which it is not necessary to create a balanced budget, our Politicians grapple with many other issues critical to effective governance.

The Illinois Legislature regularly tackles such urgent issues as establishing Official State Birds, Official State Invasive Fish Species, Official State Losing Professional Football Teams and I’m sure eventually will get around to naming an Official State Ear Wax Removal System.

In the meantime, the big issue now being debated here is whether our School System should require students to learn to write in cursive.

From my personal research cursive as a form of written expression was created way back in 1626 when Peter Minuit, appointed director-general of New Netherland by the Geoctroyeerde Westindische Compagnie (the Dutch West India Company), purchased Manhattan from the Lenape, or Delaware Indians, for $24-worth of trade goods, or so the story goes.

Suspecting the Delaware Indians just might be able to read printed words, the Dutch cleverly used the new cursive script to confuse them and suck them signing into that $24 ‘deal’.  Evidence of this may be seen on the original contract on which the Chief of the Lenape, an Indian named Bob, marked an ‘X’ on the signature line of the contract.

Bob just as easily could have made his mark as an ‘F’ or ‘M’ or some other printed letter but used an ‘X’ presumably to impress the Dutch with his knowledge of the whole printed alphabet – or at least the first twenty four letters.

Flash forward to the present and the Legislature debating whether or not to require Schools to teach students to write in cursive.

To quote from a Chicago Tribune article, “The lawmaker pushing the idea says being taught the fancy script (emphasis added) can improve student’s learning abilities and help them read handwritten notes from their grandparents.”

Opposition in the Legislature claims that “such a requirement would put another burden on schools already struggling to meet other goals with limited time and money”.

As a grandparent this issue concerns me on a number of levels.

On the one hand, I understand the Legislature’s desire to cut back on frivolous spending on ‘fancy’ and otherwise unnecessary learning experiences.  This has been a concerted effort for many years as reflected in our State’s student population’s overall test results which clearly demonstrate the success of the elimination of other useless skills such as adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing.

We simply can’t afford to teach fancy skills that might negatively impact critical life knowledge in such areas as climatic impact on biodiversity of the sturgeon population in the Caspian Sea due to the Rusted Container Ship Recycling industry there.

However, more relevant to me and as recognized by the Illinois League of Pro Cursive Lawmakers is the potential of my grandchildren being unable to read the little yellow stickies I leave for them in the bathroom when they come to visit reminding them (in cursive) to ‘LEAVE THE TOILET SEAT DOWN’.

This is a lesson which my grandchildren MUST learn if they are ever to establish a successful relationship with their future husband(s), wife(s), same sex individual(s), transgender person(s) or the odd goat(s) they may choose as life partners.

Believe me, life is not worth living being awakened by the primal scream of one’s partner using the facilities in the dark hours of the morning preceded by a muffled splashing sound.  This is minimally a guarantee that cold cereal is on the line for breakfast – or worse.

A more important concern is that my grandchildren may someday find themselves sitting across from some grizzled old Danish guy holding a contract written in cursive in one hand and $24 worth of beads in the other negotiating the sale of their house!

Finally, having used cursive all my life, as a grandparent I’ve discovered I no longer remember how to print.  (This is among a number of other things I seem to have forgotten lately but that’s another story.)

Thus, as I age further with my eyesight and hearing failing and my speech becoming less intelligible due to tooth loss or increasing phlegm balls interrupting my elocution,  my only fallback position in communicating with my grandchildren will be written cursive which they will be unable to decipher unless the Illinois State Legislature finds the money to teach them the fancy script.

Somehow I have to believe learning cursive remains an essential life skill.  At least until the letter ‘X’ suffices to convey the sum of all human written expression.

 

 

Posted in Contemporary Political Thoughts, Humer, Retirement Thoughts | Leave a comment

Trump & Obamacare Replacement – NADA!

Just feel like I have to put down my opinion on the premiere issue of today, Friday, March 25, 2017 – namely, the House vote on replacement of Obamacare.

To put it bluntly, I hope the bill on the table today stays right where it is – on the table.  Or better yet, is voted down by the House. Or maybe it just falls off the table and into the trash can.

Like every other thinking American I’ve had enough of Donald Trump’s ego, stupidity, arrogance, crudeness – sorry, I’ve run out of negative descriptors – as evidenced since the election.

While I didn’t vote for the Buffoon in Chief (nor Empress Pants Suit either, for that matter) I DID and still do support much of the Republican Party’s platform, including such things as enforcement of immigration laws, tax reform, reduced Federal regulations/bureaucracy, a return to America First trade policy, incentives for reduced outsourcing, and even repeal/replacement of Obamacare – the subject of today’s rant.

First off, it’s clear that Obamacare is a seriously flawed program; passed in an authoritarian manner with no bipartisan support and proven unsustainable from a financial standpoint.  In other words, it needs to go.

But it can’t be replaced with a new program slammed together, not properly vetted or understood (again) by Legislators, pushed forward once again with absolutely no bipartisan support, sold as a fiscally sound solution in the face of those FACTS that seem to annoy Trump so much which point in the opposite direction.

It needs to be replaced with a solution that provides a well rationalized program, discussed and debated in the light of day with ALL of Congress having at least some skin in the game at the end of the day.

I don’t think any of the above is too much to demand of our elected representatives.

What I CANNOT stand for is watching a petulant school boy demanding what he wants just because he wants it, willing to bargain away any or even all of the current bill’s provisions simply to enable him to claim a WIN.  That isn’t right.  It isn’t even right politics – the latter phrase itself being an oxymoron.

I sincerely hope the Bill fails and Trump is forced to accept a humiliating defeat.  Not that that result would have any lasting beneficial impact on him.  He simply will shrug it off and move onto the next issue where he thinks he can WIN.  That’s the essence of the guy. Right or wrong is immaterial.  Winning is everything to him.  We know the type.  He’s the Bobby Knight of politics.  Knight, former and disgraced head of the University of Indiana’s basketball program recently said of the Administrators who fired him, “I hope they’re all dead.”

That’s Trump.  He’d  just as soon walk over the bodies left in his destructive path rather than call the Medics to tend the wounded.

On a positive note, I hope, hope, hope, the GOP’s refusal to bow to Trump and coalesce around his demands portends the re (? ) emergence of this Country’s balance of power and that both Dems and Repubs ‘get it’ that they’d better hold firmly to the reins of their power and act responsibly during the next three and a half years to offset the demonstrated unbalanced personality of our now ‘Bobble Head of State’.

I had hoped Trump would somehow rise to meet the serious responsibility of the Office to which he was elected.  It didn’t take long for him to reveal to all that underneath that smirking, bloviating, lying egotist we were all afraid he would be was in fact a smirking, bloviating, lying egotist.  (Hey, guess you never really can run out of negative descriptors when it comes to Trump!).

It’s all too bad.  Really too bad.  HUGELY too bad.

 

 

 

Posted in Presidential Election, Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Hey, lets BINGE! … (or not)

In retirement I frequently have a lot of time on my hands to do whatever I wish.  The rest of the time I do something else but I don’t remember what it was.   I recently and quite accidentally got into some serious ‘binging’. (Pronounced ‘bin-jing’,  not to be confused with the Thai worm dish of the same name.)

First let’s define ‘binging’.  This means you sit your butt in front of  the biggest Screen you have and view every episode of a ‘Series’ available from start to finish using every moment of free time until the Series Finale.  Sounds severe.  Life is difficult.

A few years ago I had my first experience with what I would call ‘Minor League Binging’ when I bought a Kindle device which connected to my home WiFi network and on which I installed Netflix.

In searching the offerings on Netflix I discovered a World War II era BBC Series which interested me called ‘Foyle’s War’ which extended over approximately five ‘normal’ TV Seasons (one Season equals one calendar year) and included roughly ten or eleven shows per Season.

I liked the series and found myself watching one or two episodes per night in bed before dropping off to sleep.  It took a while to watch them all.  From 1939 – 1945 as I recall.

So far so good.

Next I found two other series I’d heard about but hadn’t seen.  These were House of Cards and Orange is the New Black.

I had one season of House of Cards to catch up on which I did using my Foyle’s War protocol (a couple of episodes per night until I ‘caught up’ to the current Season).  This series is produced by Netflix and released for viewing in the U.S. as a complete Season.  Ergo, once released it’s possible to view all episodes (without commercials) for the newly released Season.

Once again, really a Minor League binge experience.

Orange is the New Black is produced and released in a manner similar to House of Cards so I watched full Seasons on a per episode basis much like House of Cards.  The only difference was I discovered ‘Orange’ immediately following release of its first Season and therefore didn’t have to play catch up.

Still in the Minor Leagues.

And then I discovered ‘Breaking Bad’.

I vaguely remembered seeing ads for this AMC Series on Network TV but it never seemed to interest me.  Likewise, it seemed to me the Series was ‘old’ in the sense that I remembered those ads appearing for what seemed like a long time – as in years? Hmm….Duhh…

At this point I suddenly found myself in the Major League of binging.  (It’s now called the Binging Major League (BML)- all rights reserved.)

One early Monday morning with time on my hands I watched the Pilot episode of this show and immediately I was hooked.  It’s a crime drama which has been called ‘the best ever produced’ by some people who really know. I’m good with that.

The Pilot episode intrigued me and that first Monday I watched at least six episodes (at one hour per episode).  By the third day of that week  after spending eighteen hours of viewing on my laptop I finally looked at how much more viewing I’d have to do to complete the whole series.  To my amazement I discovered the series played SEVEN YEARS with 12-13 episodes per year.

By then I was committed to watching the whole thing through the end as quickly as possible.

In all I watched sixty two episodes in a period lasting from Monday through the following Sunday, and although I was spellbound and really couldn’t resist NOT watching ‘just one more episode’ I realized I was spending up to twelve hours a day watching THE SHOW.

By the end of the marathon I’d learned a number of things about binging which I offer as cautionary lessons to those who may find themselves drafted into the Binging Major League (BML) – all rights reserved. (Note:  Don’t be upset if you’re drafted in a later round in this one.)

Lesson One – People Could Think You’re an Asshole

To begin with, I quickly found myself isolated from virtually all human contact, save the absolute necessity of at least acknowledging the existence of my spouse, usually in the form of a grunting noise as she passed by throughout the day, making tsk-tsk noises as she came and went. (Note to self:  Jewel/OSCO – flowers.)

I spent my time sitting in my easy chair with a pair of headphones on, stirring only when nature called (actually more of a scream) and stopping for meals when I felt faint.

In the end I found that in seven days I’d lost every friend I ever had. I even pissed off the telemarketing guys.

Don’t let this happen to you.

Lesson Two – You Probably ARE an Asshole

This will become more apparent as you grow older.

Lesson Three – Binging Ages You

 Face it.  In the end you only get so many calories to burn.  And when you’re binging you feel the burn, baby.  All of that motivation, dedication – the feeling that for once you control your own destiny.  Sure, it’s a huge natural high but it takes its toll on you physically.  (Ref:  Need Ref:  Pls sbmt Ref.)

So anyway, at the end you’ll probably be tired.

Lesson Four – If You Watched Every Episode of Breaking Bad You Now Possess the Knowledge to Open Your Own Meth Lab

Don’t try it.

Conclusion

It occurs to me that some of the above may sound, shall we say, perhaps – spontaneous. I’ll have to think about that.

In the meantime, I’d recommend you substitute the urge to binge with something less stressful and time consuming.  Life is short after all, and as Mom said, “Too much of anything is not good for you.”  (That Mom.  Damn, she knew every cliche in the book.)

Consider watching reruns of Jeopardy – in moderation of course.  Particularly those which you’ve already seen.  Knowing in advance who wins is a great stress reliever.  Plus which, knowing all of the answers in advance will boost your self esteem.  Just don’t get too big a head.  After all, too much of anything is not good for you.  (I found that cliche book!!!)

 

 

Posted in Retirement Thoughts, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Recipe for Disaster

I’ve found that in retirement one has considerable time to think about many things.

Some of these are really important, like whether or not a colonoscopy is affordable in this year’s budget.

(Note:  See previous Post referencing this Procedure.  Comment on this mildly annoying topic is included again to provide a coherent theme from Post to Post, but mostly to really irritate my wife. Thought I’d get that out of the way early here. :-)).

Mostly however,  these things are of the more mundane variety; things that in the usual hub bub of working and parenting life one might find irritating but which are usually ignored or glossed over in order to maintain harmonious family/personal/business relationships or,  for those with serious OCD,  to simply avoid going insane.

Last week, something in that category (mundane) happened that rocked my world, or at least as much as my laid back world is rock-able these days, and which as you will read has occupied much of my waking time for days now and is the subject of today’s commentary.

My wife and I were at my son and daughter in law’s house babysitting for our grand daughters.   The plan was for my wife to make dinner for the family when the kids came home from work.

Come to think of it, there really wasn’t much of a plan involved at all.  Sort of a 1) Get Food, 2) Cook Food, 3) Eat Food kind of thing.  But all things considered, without such a plan,  omission of any of those tasks or execution of any task out of sequence would render the whole process of making dinner impossible, or even, given that pork was involved, potentially life threatening.  So planning is helpful.  I learned that during my career as a Project Manager.

MY participation in the plan of course was to participate in task 3) Eat Food.

We brought food for dinner with us, thus completing the  1) Get Food task.  However, somewhere between our arrival and the start of 2) Cook Food  I began to have hunger pangs which eventually led me to the kitchen in search of something, anything really, to tide me over until supper. Not wishing to eat too much before dinner and in doing so jeopardizing my ability to successfully participate in 3) Eat Food I decided to make a couple of slices of buttered toast.

I tossed the bread into the toaster and turned to the refrigerator to get the butter.

Opening the door I shuddered as I beheld a site which brought back terrible memories from my childhood, adolescence, mature (?) adult years and even today in my dotage.

There in the butter dish lay a small, basically useless little chunk of butter.  You know what I’m talking about. It’s that quarter inch rectangular shaped cube left over after the previous butter user has finished buttering something and rather than using that last little chunk decides to escape responsibility for REPLACING THE BUTTER.

But that isn’t what disturbed me most.  I’ll even admit here that once or twice in my life I’ve left that little useless chunk in the butter dish myself.  (Hmm…I just realized it’s true. Confession really IS good for the soul.  At least I feel better after admitting to doing that. Or maybe it’s just that last Cheeto I’m munching on as I write.  Whatever.)

No, it was the fact that there in the butter dish was also a new stick of butter STILL IN ITS PAPER WRAPPER !!!

Since I was an infant, or at least since I was old enough to open the refrigerator door to reach for the butter which was likely some time after infancy, I’ve found it to be an Immutable Fact of Life that any time it’s necessary to replace butter on the butter dish two things will result:

  1.  The useless little chunk of left over butter will NEVER be removed from the butter dish
  2. The NEW butter stick will be placed on the butter dish UNOPENED and in the
    process will not only hang over the end of the butter dish but will also, as a result
    of the butter dish containing residual scrapes of butter from the previously
    opened stick of butter (now reduced to that useless little chunk) have on the bottom part of the wrapper traces of butter.

And the end result?  The guy (perhaps girl, but more often I think this happens to guys since this has happened to me so often) who needs the butter to put on the bread now toasting will have to unwrap the new butter stick in order to get to the butter.

Lets get one thing straight at this point.  From long, tedious, frustrating experience we all know it’s virtually impossible to effectively use that little left over butter chunk as a spread onto newly toasted toast.

Why?  Well, primarily because its shape renders it unsliceable (new word?) via butter knife into portions which can be spread onto the hot toast which will melt into an acceptable spread.  When attempted, the knife will slide off the little chunk, in the process knocking off a tiny sliver of useless butter. In a frequently experienced worst case scenario the knife will slide off the leftover butter chunk, launching it out of the butter dish onto the floor.

When this happens the useless butter chunk gets tossed into the garbage (NOT the recyclables, BTW) and the floor must be wiped clean.

Regardless of whether the launch occurs or not, after having attempted unsuccessfully for the millionth time (after all, no one LIKES to waste food) to slice the chunk into usable slices, it inevitably gets tossed in the non-recyclable garbage, which the previous butter user should have done in the first place.

The next step is the unwrapping of the new stick of butter. This process presents its own set of challenges to the ‘needer’ (also a new word?) of the butter.

First let’s talk about how the butter is wrapped.

The wrapper is made of a waxy type of paper which in itself is not a bad thing except that when you add the traces of butter left over from the previous occupant of the butter dish (see Immutable Fact of Life cited above), you get waxed butter wrapping paper with the viscosity and handling characteristics of an oiled eel.

It has often occurred that in lifting the wrapped, oiled eel feeling stick of butter out of the tray, the stick slips out of the hand and falls to the floor.  Once again, floor cleaning is necessary albeit without the involvement at this point of the non-recyclable garbage.

Then there’s the matter of removing the wrapper.  Maybe it’s just me (I doubt it) but instinctively I start the process by trying to loosen the TOP, or long, section of waxed butter wrapping paper from the enclosed butter.

Hah!  Try to do that without ripping the waxy butter paper.  Ain’t gonna happen.

Of course once the waxy cover is ripped you usually get butter on your fingers which, in tandem with the eel thing creates an infinitely greater likelihood of additional launch(es) of the new butter stick as unwrapping proceeds.

After realizing the futility of trying to unwrap the new stick from the top side, one must turn to the wrapped ends of the stick seeking an alternative way in.

Which end you choose doesn’t seem to make much difference (feel free to provide feedback if your experience indicates otherwise); however, whichever end is chosen, at least three distinct motions are required to uncover the end of the butter, each of which results in additional butter on the fingers.  (Ergo, the origin of the term ‘butter fingers’).

After both ends are unwrapped the final step is to hold the top part of the wrapper (likely previously ripped) and shake the wrapper until the now unwrapped stick of butter either falls into the butter dish or once again hits floor.

And now comes the final insult.  By the time you’ve done all of the above the freakin’ toast popped up around fifteen minutes ago and all you’ve done makes no difference cuz you end up with cold butter AND cold toast.  A non-starter all around with the exception that you’ve probably got a very clean floor near the base of your refrigerator – if that helps

So, to finish my story about what happened at my son’s house, we left off at the point where I’d turned to the refrigerator to get the damn butter out.  When I finally accomplished this, of course I found the new stick of butter too cold to easily slice into sections which would readily melt onto the now frigid bread.

I rapidly concluded the solution to this dilemma would be to soften the butter.  And what better way to do this than to put the butter dish with the now unwrapped butter into the microwave oven.

This I proceeded to do, first setting the cook time to five seconds and pressing the ‘Start’ function on the microwave Key Pad.

After the five seconds the oven beeped and I removed the butter to test its firmness.  The five seconds clearly was not enough time as the butter still felt cold to the touch.

I returned the dish/butter to the microwave and set the cook time for twenty seconds  and again pressed ‘Start’..

Somewhere around the ten second mark it occurred to me that perhaps I’d been too pessimistic in my estimate of butter softening cook time and looked at the Key Pad to locate the ‘Stop’ function.  This being my son’s microwave I wasn’t entirely familiar with the Key Pad layout and as the seconds ticked by I frantically scanned the Key Pad for the location of the ‘Stop’ function, having completely forgotten about the alternative way of stopping the butter cooking by opening the door to the microwave.

Finally, twenty seconds was up, the oven beeped and I opened the door to see the results of my effort.

To my astonishment I discovered that not only was the butter well softened, turning it into a remarkable facsimile of the wreck of the Titanic (see illustrations below), but that a good deal of it had melted into the butter dish itself which, while removing it from the oven, dripped onto my son’s oven and onto the floor, once again involving floor cleaning but now with the added task of stove top cleaning.

sunken-titanic

butter-dish

At this point I held the dripping butter dish over the now ossified toast, poured the melted butter onto the toast and spread it out, thus successfully and after only twenty minutes or so, completing my snack.

I hope the above will be of help to you in once and for all assigning full responsibility for comprehensively replacing butter in butter dishes in your household.  I feel confident that once the ramifications of leaving that chunk of used butter in the butter dish and putting a new stick of unwrapped butter are fully understood, your life will be greatly simplified. Or maybe a little.

FINIS

 

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A Great Time to Be Alive

We’re now into the second month of the Trump Administration.  And what a month it’s been!

I don’t know if my reactions to State (Illinois, Ugh!), National or World events – particularly in the Political arena – are typical of anyone else’s (in fact, I don’t really care to be perfectly honest), but so far I’m thoroughly enjoying what’s happening around me.

For starters, every morning I awake and go through my little ritual of coffee (bathroom visits before and after too, mentioned here in the interest of total intellectual honesty accompanied by the usual desire to share TMI – particularly of the kind that is mildly offensive) and light up my faithful laptop to enjoy the day’s online CONTENT.

This is my quiet time of day, differentiated only by the noticeably lighter sky characteristic of the ‘other’ quiet time I enjoy the rest of the day.  But it’s a special time because this is where I get to sit back and without interruption troll through the websites which keep me informed of and in tune with the world around me.

These include financial websites, Email and Facebook, the online Chicago Tribune, CNN, CNBC,  MSNBC and even lately and amazingly  FOX News (more about the latter further on).

From the content reviewed, by the time I’m finished trolling, which usually consumes an hour or two, I’m ready to face the day knowing  pretty much everything I really need to know at this stage in life.

First I go over the finances on my personal financial websites. You know who you are.

When I’m finished with these I know things like whether or not I can afford to buy yet another LED flashlight/personal defense doo hicky on Amazon.  I now have enough of these to illuminate virtually every space I may occupy at any time, including home, vehicles, dark alleys and of course the bathroom and to theoretically blind any adversary stupid enough to try to attack me with their eyes open.  (I’m not really sure but I think these things would also work on dogs too?)

I also know whether anyone is hacking my credit cards and charging me for things like subscriptions to porn sites, escort services and the like.  (Disclaimer:  I have NO idea what might trigger such nefarious activity.)

From CNBC I get the day’s Market Futures and a real time assessment of whether or not I’ll be able to afford retirement for the next ‘n’ years;  whether I need to completely and immediately downsize;  whether it’s going to be McDonald’s or TRUE for dinner; if I have enough life insurance; whether I can afford a colonoscopy this year etc., etc..

Indeed, it’s comforting and even EMPOWERING (I love to use that word. And it’s even more fun to capitalize it) to get this kind of insight first thing in the morning, every morning excluding weekends and those odd Federal Holidays on which absolutely no one but Government employees and financial institutions actually get a day off from work.  (As a side benefit, my daily online financial review generally reminds me to take my hypertension pill for the day.)

Next I check Email and Facebook.

My In Box provides a plethora of information apparently  essential for my health and well being and which reminds me of things like my need for even MORE Under Armour under gear, sales on 92 point wines from Tambora, and the occasional jokes and nudie pics which certain friends of mine send me – and which are actually the REAL reason I look at my In Box.

Moving on to Facebook I get my dose of SOCIAL MEDIA for the day.  I’ll save my commentary on the usefulness of what I find and even post myself  (e.g., this Blog) on Facebook for another day.

Ok, not that you asked, but that’s how I pretty much start my day.  But I haven’t yet covered the really fun part.  And that is when I move on to the NEWS websites.

It’s clear to me that the Media is undergoing the most challenging and stressful period in my lifetime and I’m thoroughly enjoying watching them go through it.

In the online  Chicago Tribune I’m watching what has for, like forever, been a bastion of conservative/Republican reporting morph into sort of a split personality thing.

On the National level the Page 1 Headlines seem to vacillate between Bad News and Maybe It Might Not Be Bad News.  Either TrumpGov has said or done something incredibly stupid or we’re not sure whether what was done or said is legal, Constitutional/sensible/idiotic but watch this space cuz we’ll somehow decide tomorrow or the next day.

On the State and Local (read: Chicago) levels the news is always Bad.  I mean, what else but Bad News would you get from the CPD, CPS, CTU, County and State Governments in Illinois these days?

Next comes the day’s Social Commentary where the ‘guy’ on Page 2 is totally agin’ that guy/girl on Page 5, unless the guy on Page 2 is a fill in person (often times a girl) who is on a totally different track than the usual guy on Page 2..

Next comes the Editorial Page, where commentary seems to switch from Liking to Not Liking ‘X’ (insert Your Topic here) on a regular basis.  And this is when they’re not just  bitching about how the State of Illinois, its Governing Structure (State, County, Township, City, Town, Aldermen (AlderWOMEN?), the CPD, the CPS,  CTU ad nauseam, are dysfunctional, corrupt (Ok, they’ve PROVED that one), unsustainable, unaffordable, insensitive, gender annoying (I made that category up), or whatever.

After I get through the maze of thoughts, commentary, Bad News and articles about the schizoid Bulls in the Trib I move on to CNN.

CNN used to be my fav source of online news.  That was before the Election Campaigns and the Election itself.  I found CNN’s content to be generally fair with an acceptable level of bias on both sides of the Political spectrum, along with an entertaining amount of attention paid to the clothing worn or not worn by the latest B movie celebs and oh yeah, those GINORMOUS Kardashian protuberances.

But for the past year or so there has been an apparent coup staged at CNN.  During the run up to the Election, CNN couldn’t produce enough articles about how controversial/stupid/outrageous the Trump campaign was.  Conversely, they occasionally made mention of the other obscure and much less entertaining Republican candidates, which in the end ultimately gave billions of dollars (or a LOT) of free publicity for Trump.

Meanwhile, they kept a steady watch on old Hillary’s Stronger Together pant suits, never quite figuring out exactly what her Platform was but that’s OK cuz we’re good with more of the same… I guess.

Then BOOM! Trump got elected and suddenly the Lucifer Incarnate was President of the United States.

Since then, far as I can tell, CNN has been trying to make up for being a de facto publicity machine for Trump by generating a non stop flow of Mea Culpa stories about the path to perdition the Election has put us all on.

Thinking my perceptions might be skewed for some reason, the other day I called up the CNN main screen and counted fourteen out of seventeen stories visible there which damned Trump’s Administration, his Tweets, his Executive Orders – pretty much everything, or which announced the latest activities of what is rapidly becoming known as ‘The Resistance’.  (Financial Tip:  Find a Company which specializes in making berets and invest heavily!).

Ok, so after getting my fill of depression, anger, confusion there I move on to MSNBC where to be honest I pretty much just watch the latest snippet of Morning Joe to see how much more confused Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzesinski are with the events of today, yesterday and tomorrow.

Finally, like enjoying a really fine bottle of Ripple after downing a dozen or so Sliders, I make my online way to online FOX News.  I really almost hate to admit that since over the years I’ve heard absolutely nothing good about FOX news except for the hot chicks there.

But once having capitulated, I’ve found FOX News to be a fascinating counterpart to my other online news sources.  Where others find nothing but gloom, doom and Kardashians, FOX News seems at least make an attempt to find the Puppy in the Pile of Poop.  And I freely admit, these days THAT’S some tough work!  (And YES, the chicks are pretty hot too. :=))

And with all of that I am raring and ready to go for the day, fully convinced that the Media is a bi-polar world of angry, frustrated men and women who are putting their chips on both red and black on the Roulette Wheel of Life and playing Double Zeros, just in case.

I tell you, it makes we wonder how retirees back in the day managed to fill the spaces between their ears without such sources of information.  Come to think of it, maybe life in those days was just less complex what with all the chores around the farm which needed doin’.

But I snigger when I think about how I know pretty much every day whether or not I can afford that colonoscopy.

It’s a great time to be alive.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Trump, Bafflement & Other Synonyms

Donald Trump has been President for six days now and it’s been fascinating to watch the media’s reaction in that brief time.

It seems every day there has been a new word or phrase selected by the media and it’s embedded punditry to describe the Trumpster’s Executive Actions, Tweets, and even random thoughts.

This morning’s term is ‘Bafflement’.

To set the stage I should make clear I didn’t vote for Trump – nor did I vote for Clinton either, although I did exercise my franchise to vote for candidates whom I felt were ‘worthy’ (at least as I define that and as all of us do in one way or another at election time).

To set the stage even further I consider myself politically conservative and pretty much just your average Joe when it comes to my views of this wonderful Country we live in.  Am I alt-right?  No way.  In fact, I reject all forms of political radicalism (from the right OR left) and always have, going back to the good old days of social unrest in the 60’s and 70’s.

But for what seems like years I’ve noted what many others have when it comes to the media; viz., a liberal, progressive, redistribution of wealth bias combined with an insistence on Political Correctness, all of which harbors very little patience for those of us who take opposing views of how and what THEY believe the rest of us should think and do and how we should act.

As a result, the emergence of Trump whose various well known positions fly in the face of such liberal views has the media seemingly buried in the Thesaurus trying to come up with new synonyms to describe the awfulness of his agenda and the speed with which he is moving to make what he said he’d do and what the electorate (minus 2-3 million popular votes of course) agreed he should do as President.

In the past week we’ve been told by the media that what Trump is doing has:

  • Horrified
  • Concerned
  • Confused
  • Outraged
  • …and today’s word, Baffled

various Activist Groups, Special Interest Groups,  NATO, the Intelligence Community, Civil Servants, Illegal Immigrants (a once common reference to those living in this Country in violation of our Immigration LAWS), the entire Pacific Rim and, oh yeah, Mexico – to name a few.

When not laser focusing on critically important issues like the size of the Inauguration Crowd or Trump’s belief  that millions of people voted illegally in the election -who BTW in theory would have been Clinton supporters thus resulting in HER election – and drawing from these things the dire conclusion that Armageddon will be the inevitable result, we are being lectured non-stop by the media leftist/liberal cabal that the things Trump is actually DOING should be antithetical to any sense of human decency or morality.

Well, as an individual who believes:

  • our borders MUST be protected and those who are here illegally and are involved in criminal activities should be given a one way ticket home
  • that trade agreements made by the U.S. should be made in OUR favor
  • that U.S. businesses should be incentivized to invest here versus overseas
  • that charity begins at home and foreign assistance should be made available AFTER we’ve taken care of our own (however that’s defined)
  • that universal Health Care is a good thing but that the current scheme is fundamentally flawed and needs replacement
  • that regulations in too many spheres (including financial and environmental, among others) have had an adverse affect on the betterment of societal levels below the privileged elite

I say ‘enough’ to the hypocritical well heeled loudmouths whose multi millions give them access to the bully pulpit of the media (the Moores the Zuckerbergs, the Streeps,etc.) and to the liberals working in the media who believe that theirs is the only voice that should be heard.

And I ask them to report objectively on  ‘News’ and at least have the decency to separate and clearly identify  ‘Opinion’ rather than surreptitiously including same in supposed ‘Headlines’.

And lastly, for once I’d like to see someone in media have the balls to use the word ‘Bulls##t’ as a synonym to describe true Bulls##t.

At least I’d know I was getting an Opinion versus actual News.

 

 

 

 

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Brian Williams, Jackie Robinson West & Life’s Lessons Learned the Hard Way

It’s been quite a week.  First, Brian Williams gets essentially dumped (six months, oh yeah) for embellishing a war story.  Next, the Jackie Robinson West boy’s baseball team, crowned National Champs last summer are dethroned because their team included players who were ineligible based on Little League rules which exclude players living outside of the predefined geographical boundaries established for their Team (and ANY Team for that matter).

So what’s the reaction?  Well, based on his place and status in the media, Williams’ transgression(s) couldn’t be ignored.  When a major Network Anchor jumps a plane to put him/herself into a story, there’s no reasonable rhyme or rational for them to report on anything but the truth of what they’ve experienced.  As much as I like Brian Williams, I have to agree with Jon Stewart’s assessment that professional reporters who become celebrities beyond their field of expertise – which Williams did by his many, many appearances on talk shows, cameos in movies, etc. – can very easily lose their way as they try to switch from ‘report’ to ‘entertain.’

So goodbye and good luck to Brian Williams.  I’m sure he’ll be able to live extraordinarily well during his time off – and for years afterward even if he never worked a day again.

Having said that, I feel like I need to add a perspective from personal experience to the Williams story.

I served in the Vietnam War (’68 – ’69).  During most of that time I worked in an air conditioned office in Danang, RVN, with thousands of other rear echelon troops.  While I was there I became aware of the fact that Danang had a nickname ‘back in the World’ (the U.S.).  It was called ‘Rocket City’ in the media.  At the time I laughed at the name as it made it sound like the U.S. Troops stationed there snuck around in underground bunkers covered with camouflage, in flack jackets, armed to the teeth – all to avoid a torrential rain of enemy 120mm rockets launched at the city.

The truth was that indeed the city underwent fairly regular rocket attacks (several times a month, sometimes more often) but the majority of these were targeting the Danang Airbase, located several miles from where I served.

Admittedly some landed fairly close.  (I can tell you that shrapnel from one of these  sounds like a handful of marbles raining down.  That’s how close some of them came to me.)

On another occasion I was flying in a Huey which developed a mechanical problem just after takeoff, filling the chopper with smoke and resulting in a forced landing from around 50 feet in the air.

There are other stories I could tell you about the times I was really in danger, at least in my opinion, however, the point I want to make about Brian Williams is that he was IN FACT in a dangerous place, wasn’t a trained military man, and certainly was not used to living day to day with that little critter in the back of your mind that reminded you something bad over which you had absolutely no control could occur at any minute.

When his chopper landed in that desert and knowing that an RPG had brought down another bird nearby, Williams no doubt was under a lot of stress if not worse.  And no doubt he bonded with those servicemen surrounding him he considered his protectors.

As for his later embellishment of the event, believe me, I’ve heard far, far worse “Enhanced War Stories” from men who actually served in combat arenas but were no closer to danger than a completely random rocket landing on their head.

It’s these types and those who blatantly engage in the activity called ‘Stolen Valour’ in which complete lies are made up and Combat Medals – up to and including the Medal of Honour – are claimed as earned, that truly deserve censure and  ridicule.

So over time, Williams foolishly embellished his experience.  But I can’t help wonder tho how much the passage of time made the truth fuzzier, the actual danger become more near, and Williams’ recollection morphed into the story as we know it today.  To the point it became his reality.

Now onto the JRW fiasco.  Wow.  Talk about a media failure not to mention a moral failure on the part of the adults involved in this who brought in the ‘ringers’ (as we used to call them when I was playing baseball in my youth in Chicago) to create the kind of talent needed to excel at the National level.

The moral problem speaks for itself.  The Coach and all who had knowledge of the ineligible players should be pilloried for their totally unacceptable behavior.  As a matter of fact, I’m fairly certain some if not most the players involved knew they were going around the rules (i.e., ringers  were playing); however, given their age, it’s difficult to place blame there.  One can only hope they’ve learned a life lesson about the penalties involved with not playing by the rules.  Only time will tell on that one.

Then there’s the accountability of the media.  The firestorm of praise, public appearances, parades, visits to the While House, etc. was the product of a media who blare their own horns to the heavens when they uncover some evil doing somewhere.  Their job is to report the news and as they continually brag, through their own investigative reporting seek out those who do wrong.

So why was it that not one person in the media undertook the simple step of ascertaining the JRW’s team members were legitimate and eligible to play according to the rules?   I’d really like to hear an answer to that one. And why didn’t this occur earlier – like BEFORE the team became National contenders and media stars?

Is it they didn’t want to spoil all the feel good stories filling their air time?  Did they not want to miss the opportunity of standing in front of the mic night after night with crowds of celebrants dancing around in the background?

Who can say?  But I for one want to hear the answer.  I want the media held to account on this one.  And I want that ass hat Pfleger to shut his mouth about how the revelations of foul play are indicative of racism.

What these events have in common is the incompetence and lack of credibility in the crap we’re spoon fed by the media.  They get wars wrong.  And why should that be a surprise?  They can’t even get Little League right.

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The New Age Discrimination in Employment

I am in that group of early boomers entering the ‘golden years of retirement’.  So are most of my friends.

I’ve been retired for a little over four years now and during that time have watched a number of colleagues of my age finish their working years under circumstances which point to subtle new forms of age discrimination in the private work force.

What follows is a description of several different practices and tactics Companies are using to ‘get rid of’ older employees’ in (strictly speaking) legal, yet highly questionable ways. Ways which stretch the rules governing age discrimination in employment, denigrate the individual, and take advantage of older employees who are often at their most vulnerable economic point in life.

Why are Companies doing this?  The answer(s) are fairly obvious.

1.  Older employees tend to be among the higher salaried component of the work force.
‘Dumping’ such people presents an immediate expense reduction for a Company.

2.  Older employees, particularly those in middle management, present a blockage to
promotional opportunities for younger, less expensive talent.  The ‘baby boom
particularly exacerbates this situation with so many older workers in the work force today.

3.  ‘Right to Work’ laws offer Companies extreme leeway to discharge employees ‘without
cause’.  Although as written, there are so called restrictions against age discrimination,
the  ‘without cause’ clause is a virtual blank check for Companies to come up with
excuses  for getting rid of older employees – supposedly legally.

4.  Older employees possess the least leverage in protecting their jobs.  For example,
individuals nearing retirement are less likely to ‘put up a stink’ when confronted with
changing work conditions which younger employees may challenge under threat of
leaving and taking their future potential, desperately needed by Companies, with them.

Older employees are viewed as having already reached their maximum potential and
are thus considered ‘expendable’.

So let’s categorize and discuss the tactics being used by Corporations to rid themselves of older employees.

REDEFINING PRODUCTIVITY STANDARDS

This is probably the most frequently used tactic.  Companies always need to reduce costs by finding ‘cheaper, better and faster’ ways of doing business.  It’s the nature of business.

Although there are a number of totally valid ways of accomplishing this, including such things as introduction of automation, and analysis and redesign of processes to eliminate redundant and otherwise unnecessary effort, these ways require financial investment on the part of Companies.

It is far cheaper and easier to ‘raise the bar’ as the saying goes in the Corporate Land by simply increasing the number of widgets employees are expected to produce in defined timeframes (daily, weekly, monthly, etc.).  This requires no more investment than the editing of existing Performance Standards and publishing of new Standards.

And who is more likely to be able to meet (or at least TRY to meet in the short term) the new expectations?  Is it the sixty-something employee or the bright eyed bushy tailed twenty year old?

Whether or not the new standards are realistic or sustainable over time is immaterial.  The mere establishment of them provides an immediate opportunity to turn an older, long term ‘valued’ employee into an underachiever who can be placed on probation and let go for non performance.  After that’s been done and expense reduction benefits achieved, Companies can simply redefine Productivity Standards again to adjust to the threat of burn out on the part of the overworked younger employees.

REORGANIZATIONS AND REDUCTIONS IN FORCE (R&R’s)

It is common practice for Companies to reorganize internally for a variety of perfectly valid reasons.

Many Companies go through cycles of centralizing or decentralizing operations.  This is common in the Services Sector.  There is always some rationale associated with these kinds of organizational moves; however, as often as competitive forces drive them (e.g., the need to open a new office to expand business), once again, expense reductions are also, and often exclusively, a prime incentive – particularly in a contracting economy.

In either case, reorganizations – whether internal to an individual office or as part of a centralize/decentralize move – are most often accompanied by Reductions in Force (RIF’S in common parliance.)  RIF’s can be achieved as a result of economies of scale, elimination of redundant positions or even changes in business or product strategies.

When Companies reduce their work force they generally are very careful in documenting exactly who has been let go and the distribution of personnel let go by age (among other things).  The reality, however, is that RIF’s can be used to eliminate non performing younger (i.e., less costly) employees but at the same time eliminating older, more expensive employees.  On paper it all looks legal and above board and the Company achieves its objectives but the end result to older employees is the same.

REDEFINING PERSONNEL POLICIES AND PROCEDURES

This is a tactic which was used by a colleague’s Company to enable them to include her as part of a RIF.

It involves the constant revision of Personnel procedures defining the circumstances under which employees may be placed on probation or Performance Plans, for how long, and how they can (or more accurately, cannot) achieve what is necessary to be taken off and considered as contributing employees.

In my colleague’s case, she was a twenty five year employee of a Company which desperately needed to reduce expenses.  She was also the highest paid employee among her group.

First, she was a victim of the Redefinition of Performance Standards ploy described above, accompanied by a deliberate reduction in her workload which precluded her from being able to meet the revised Standards.

When first put on a Performance Plan for non-performance (almost two years ago) the Company’s Policies and Procedures contained a definition of how the Performance Plan worked.  When she achieved what was defined in the Procedures Manual she discovered the Procedures had been changed and she was still considered a non-performer.  This process was repeated several performance cycles until, when the RIF finally occurred, she was included as part of the RIF and her high salary saved.

In her case, the Company was able to justify including her in the RIF on the basis of non performance; however, it is a clever way of disguising age discrimination on an ongoing basis.

ELIMINATION OF RESPONSIBILITIES

This is a tactic used to ‘nudge’, ‘encourage’, and even ‘force’ older employees at higher levels of management out of the work force.

It is an insidious tactic which preys on the psyche of employees by gradually reducing their job responsibilities to the point where they feel useless, their daily activities are largely make work, and pressure is exerted as their peers observe what’s going on and even commiserate with them.  The latter simply reinforces the loss of self worth to the point where what amounts to non-voluntary retirement becomes preferable.

I saw this tactic used by a Company to force another colleague of mine into retirement earlier than desired.

CONCLUSION

Although my retirement was voluntary, what happened to me at the Company I worked at for twenty five years was disturbing and left me with a bad taste in my mouth.  I won’t go into details here as a sop to my then Management hierarchy with whom I’ve remained friends since that time, however, after years of outstanding performance my ‘good bye’ and ‘thank you’ were colored by an unfortunate administrative move.

Bottom line, age discrimination comes in many shapes and colors.  Only those with deep pockets can even begin to challenge Companies for this most onerous treatment of older employees.  And even then the scales are weighted so heavily in favor of Corporate America that a successful challenge under current employment laws is unusual and even unlikely.

Where for preceding generations retirement was a life event to be looked forward to, in today’s business and economic environment, surviving as an employee UNTIL retirement is possible and affordable is more difficult than ever.

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Time Goes By

It’s been a year since I visited this space so I thought I’d add some thoughts.
 
Nationally, the last three months have seen improvement in the economic environment in the U.S., but today specfically blew chunks.  I’m still waiting for things to get back to the point where I’m  comfortable being retired (again).
 
Obama certainlyh has taken control of a lot of things, including the banking system, GM, and moving quickly on Health Care.  Lots of bitching out there about the U.S. moving towards socialism.  I can’t really argue but that that seems to be the direction; however, I prefer to think that the political moves going on are both a temporary necessity as well as temporary expedients.  For example, i believe we have GOT to get off of our reliance on foreign oil.  We’ve paid much too high a price in blood, treasure and respect for the U.S. as a result of the need to coddle those in the Middle East who hate us (and from all appearances will continue to hate us no matter what).  If it takes majority ownership on the part of the government to force development and sale of vastly more efficient vehicles, then so be it.   I really don’t care  a fig about ‘freedom of choice’ when it comes to this issue.  Just because Americans are used to getting what they want at virtually any price doesn’t mean that’s the right thing to have happen.  We’ll see.
 
As time goes by, as expected, work relationships are fading with interactions with my former colleagues becoming fewer and further in between.  This was, of course, totally to be expected and I have maintained some good relationships which do appear lasting so no real issues there.  As a retiree with more time alone on my hands I’ve learned to live with and by myself quite well.  The wife continues to work (thanks, Economy) so I am pretty much free to set my own schedule an do things  as and when I like.  All in all quite a liberating experience.
 
This has been the second consecutive year where Spring weather has been unusually cold and wet.  Today is June 15 and we’ve had perhaps two or three days of summer weather (i.e., higher than 80 degrees).  At the same time, last winter was one of the worst in terms of snowfall in years.
 
Speaking of which, I think the old bod has told me that I’ve done enough snowmobiling.  Too much back pain resulting from the constant beating on the trails.  In fact, a friend recently made the comment that “Getting old means a day never goes by when something doesn’t hurt”.  I find that to be a bit of an extreme at this particular point in time but can feel this is where things inevitably end up.  Sort of answers the question I always wondered about, to wit:  “Why do professional golfers lose their skills as they age?”  Of course, this is also indicative of my overall total lack of any talent in the playing of the game, but I used to look at the pros and think they made it look so easy and were so good, I wondered what it was that led to their loss of the ability to play at the pro level.  I now understand the pain involved in just performing routine movements for no reason (other than naturally occurring arthritis).  And I can’t imagine actually walking 18 holes anymore (the dual hip replacement thing there).
 
I finally finished my Vietnam memoirs and have sent them to my brother Larry for a look.  He plays a large role insofar as he and I were stationed together over there.  Not sure what I’ll do with them after he comments.  Possibly may publish them just for yucks and to have a few copies of a book I wrote.  We’ll see.
 
Still not sure what I’ll do with this space, if anything, but plan on stopping by once in a while just to rap.
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Still on the Fence

It’s now August and we’re less than 100 days from the election.  Surprise!  Since my last comments Obama has changed his positions on several issues and is sounding more like McCain than McCain does.  I guess on a positive note he hasn’t had to apologize for any more whacko preacher friends.  A little disturbing news came out this morning with Obama claiming that "he doesn’t look like the other Presidents on the dollar bill" which is being touted as his having played the race card.
 
Obama recently toured Iraq and announced that he would establish a timeframe for U.S. withdrawal in agreement with the Maliki government there.  Iraq has largely been stabilized now (for which Bush will get no credit, either for the regime change, the elimination of a potential nuclear terror state, or for persistence in pursuing the Surge strategy which paid the current dividend) and while McCain would see a continuing U.S. Military presence there ala Korea, Germany et al it is possible the Iraqi government will not choose this to be in their best interests.  McCain has shown no indication he would move ahead against the wishes of the Iraqis so in my mind that makes his position and Obama’s very similar.
 
The economy is still tanking, although July has been a better month; however, I am concerned about the go forward strategies of both candidates.  Obama appeals to me because he’s talking eliminating personal income taxes at certain levels which would benefit me greatly.  Beyond that, however, neither candidate seems to have a strong go forward strategy.  My instincts are that whatever gas price reduction we receive through normal market forces, we ought to maintain price stability at a high level through federal taxation and invest all such funds in alternative energy research.  I think this is the way we finally get the oil monkey off our backs.  I’ve heard nothing from either candidate indicating such a move.
 
Net net is I am still on the fence.  I am tired of Obama’ Change theme by now which really has been overplayed and lacks substance.  McCain is about as charasmatic as a mastadon but at this point at least he has the track record over Obama who would definitely be a ‘learn as you earn’ kind of guy with, I am convinced, a lot of baggage he’ll be carrying in with him.
 
Still no VP picks yet on either side.  Probably a good thing as selection now would diffuse even further the lack of substantive discussion of real issues.   Keep tuned.
 
SG
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Now it Starts…

Well, this week Barack Obame finally clinched the Democratic Party’s nomination for President.  As phony and transparent as I find Hillary Clinton,  I was actually pleased at the outcome of the Primary, although it seemed to go on forever.
 
Hillary is now in the obviously uncomfortable position of having to decicde whether or not she’s willing to play second fiddle to Obama.  He, on the other hand, is faced with the unpleasant decision of whether or not to offer her the VP slot.  I don’t believe that choosing her for VP will do Obamas’s campaign much good or that she would complement him as a Vice President.  The pundits are already highlighting the fact that as VP, Hillary would likely choose to toot her own horn, likely at Obama’s expense.
 
What troubles me is the lack of substance thus far of Obama’s platform.  Ending the war in Iraq is easy to say but will be more difficult to accomplish – at least in any short timeframe post election which would satisfy his promise to end the war quickly.  To think the United States could turn on a dime and withdraw troops in a matter of weeks or even a few months without it looking like another Saigon evacuation is naive.  His stated position that he wants to talk to radical national leaders like Iran’s Ahmadinejad is also a risky proposition.  As McCain’s camp has already noted, what would be a positive outcome of such discussions?  Would the expectation be that Obama could talk sense into such a madman?  Unlikely.  More likely would be the enhancement of Ahmadinejad as a ‘player’ whom the U.S. fears and with whom we need to reach an accomodation. 
 
Regardless of how many times Obama finds it necessary to distance himself from the likes of Wright and Pfleger, it seems to me that at least to a degree the old saying that “You are known by the company you keep” (or words to that effect) comes into play here.  For starters, whatever distance he tries to put between himself and these kinds of people, the fact is he needs their constituencies to vote for him in order to be elected.  If they do, it would not be unreasonable for them to expect some quid pro quo if Obama is elected.  And of course we haven’t yet really heard from such established nut jobs as Sharpton or ideologues like Jackson.  When these and others like them weigh in with their support , what will be the pound of flesh they will demand and how will such demands be addressed without appearing like Obama has betrayed them?  And will he be able to resist the pressure which will be brought to bear on him by such supporters?
 
I plan on giving Obama fair consideration as the Presidential campaign proceeds but he’s got a lot of work to do to convince me of his electability.  As a general statement I find it difficult to turn over leadership of the world’s most important and powerful natiol to an individual with no more than four years experience in the political arena.  I can’t think of any sizeable corporation that would appoint a CEO with such a lack of credentials.  We’ll have to see as time goes on.
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For Starters…..

Hi;
 
If you’re reading this, welcome to my blog.  If you’re not, please skip the following
 
This is my first time blogging so the content wil evolve over time.  What this means is that I frankly don’t know dick about blogging but will learn as I go.  I have a lot of friends and acquaintances from many age groups, backgrounds and even cultures.  I retired at the not quite ripe old age of 60 and have as of this writing been goofing off for about a year and a half.  One of the things I would like to do in this blog is share my experiences and insights as an early retiree.  Of course, as time goes by I will no longer be an early retiree and eventually will be a dead retiree; however, I did retire in advance of most of my contemporaries who have encouraged me to write about my insights into the retirement process.  
 
Being retired, of course I now have the time to follow Current Events more closely.  This would include things like National, State and Local politics as well as international events.  I’ll exercise my right as an aeging crankster to bitch about just about anything and to offer my clearly self interest solutions for how to solve the many dilemmas which face our society.
 
I will try to maintain civility in my writing but will warn you in advance I do use some earthy language (see above ‘don’t know dick about blogging remark).  If you’re offended, feel free to click the Back button or whatever the hell button it is that gets you out of here!
 
Thanks for visiting.
 
Stevie G
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