Motorcycles, Bicycles and Mosquitoes…

imagesI’m actually a big “fan” (appreciator?) of bicycles and motorcycles. I don’t have either because I own, drive and enjoy an automobile. I did however have several bicycles when I was growing up, before I got my driver’s license, of course. 

I’m all for the gas savings – carbon footprint limits and all that – when you use a bicycle or motorcycle. Around where I live in West Central Florida there are more and more “motor” scooters being used as well to go everywhere. The county has spent probably several million tax dollars creating these “paths” between the sidewalk and the road for bikes. Scooters and motorcycles cannot – or should not – use them – but they should. All these small “vehicles” take up little space and you don’t need a garage or driveway to park them.

So, sounds good, right? Absolutely not. Before I say what I’m about to say, let me say there is one major exception. That being the – let’s use the well known description – 1% ‘ers. Those usually older and more mature folks on “Harley’s” that know what they’re doing and understand how to share the road with other cars, trucks and bikers. I respect these “riders” and perhaps one day I will be one of you. As soon as a spare $15,000 falls off a tree along with $250 for the motorcycle endorsement on my (already a CDL – Class A) license. 

But all the rest – the “others” – bicycle riders, motorcyclists and scooter-ers, are terrible and should be ordered off the road for serious reorientation and retraining. They are the other 99% and can be characterized as clueless, brainless, careless and just about every other “less” in the dictionary. They “all” need to be placed on kind of a suicide watch for most assuredly many of them will die soon. 

ScooterThese “vehicles” and the morons who unsafely operate them are the human version of mosquitoes. Let me give you a couple of examples that exemplify the lot of them. A two way road. On one side is a newly created wide concrete sidewalk. Along this road travel large garbage trucks, city buses, the usual UPS and Fedex traffic, commuters, tourists, people going wherever during the day and night – you get the picture. Passing or crossing traffic along the yellow line is illegal. Oh, I forgot, there is a fire and rescue station at one end of the road. They use the road to quickly respond to emergencies, usually along the major road, about 1/4 mile away. 

Now, add into this rather busy – obviously much more so at rush hour – mix – the “guy” and his (stupid) bicycle. Merrily and seemingly and mindlessly traveling in either direction on the same road, with – sorry to say and I apologize for my English – his head up his ass. We’re not talking about Claude in his Italian bike “costume” and a $1500 light weight Tour de France competition bike traversing along the roadside.

No, it’s a product most likely of a garage sale – purchased – as a “deal” along with a Elvis commemorative plate and an old worn out Confederate flag. The seat can no longer be adjusted  (I’ve seen bikes without seats – just a pole – the ride pedals standing) so the riders legs and knees are protruding out even further effecting the flow of traffic. The tires are old and the air pressure below norms which makes the adult drivers top speed about 3 mph.

riding a wheelieHe – almost never a she – refuses to move out of flow of traffic. I don’t know why and don’t care anymore. Local cops and the sheriff illegally pass by him failing to ever do anything. That’s not all they fail to do, but that is definitely another story. If one slows down, rolls the window down and shouts at this “person” they either pretend not to hear, ignore the request to get out of the way or give you a (“the”) bird (“finger”) and proceed on as it nothing is out of sorts. What is it but blind arrogant stupidity? Believe me when I say that there are far better way to demonstrate your libertarianism

Next example. We’re off the smaller road onto a major thoroughfare – three or four lanes each way with a median. You can’t go far along this road without coming to a traffic light, which are in my area are always and forever out of sync. Every type of vehicle imaginable runs along here. Every fast food restaurants, chain store and gas station repeats itself like a bad cartoon strip every ¾ mile. Then out of nowhere appears the dreaded motorcyclist. The “Snowden” wannabe. Mr. – again almost never a Ms., Miss or Mrs. – speed demon. The dude who thinks he can beat the odds of endless traffic lights, slow driving Canadians with their lights on, multi-stopping delivery vans and lost and confused older drivers never knowing exactly where to turn with their right signal light blinking. This creative “driver” is gonna show the driving public how he creatively operates. 

thebicyclebum_1-28-07aBright red, yellow, green, orange or purple, the driver of this two wheeled monster that can exceed 125 mph in a heartbeat is on a mission to get somewhere – apparently anywhere – fast – no matter what. Laws, codes, statutes, tradition and courtesy don’t matter to him. He is the  iconoclast of the highway. To move in a straight line behind another vehicle is foreign and uncomfortable to him. He is a master of the swerve. In and out, speed up, slow down, cut that car or truck off, then swerve some more, rev it up, zoom zoom, cut across two lanes around the tourist and then – stop at the light – just like the rest of us mortals. 

Rev, rev, zoom, zoom – hotsy totsy fool – can’t relax a sec – foot jumping up and down, tush bumping, rev, rev – oh shit why does this light take so long? Watch the cars in the other direction slow down, vroom – light changes and he’s off 45, 65, 85+ to the freak’n Taco Bell. The heat index is 105 degrees and he’s dressed for the (fetish related) Folsom Street Fair. But being about 125 lbs and 5′ 6” helps matters immensely. On his head, a massively thick helmet better suited for space travel than 360 degree vision. He’s like a stallion with blinders on. Of course, on his back is a bulging nap sack of some matching bright color with his “study” materials.

Enough. I should read both morons obituary’s soon in the local paper. They are extremely dangerous. Some are so worried about gun ownership, they should spend more time trying to getting rid of this bike and motorcycle menace. No exceptions please. Remember I called them mosquitoes? What do you do with pests? You e-x-t-e-r-m-i-n-a-t-e them. The sooner the better – before they hurt someone else. Their relatives, if they have any with any brains, should all chip in and purchase them a Prius

China Bicycle KingdomBefore I close, please allow me one special note for one other incredible annoyance – the motor “scooter”. They “work” just fine in Europe and the Far East, but unless everybody in some massive Socialist sweep of America gets rid of their cars and goes to scooters, they will never work here. #1 problem is their too slow. Fat or thin the engines are too small to transport the driver, a rider and a 24 pack of Bud Light and a carton of “smokes” to the trailer park where they live.

Here seems the natural progression of things. First you have the old used bicycle. Next, you get a “job” and buy the “moto” speed racer motorcycle. You age or worse, wreck the damn thing and you buy a scooter to get you to your part-time” shifts at Wendy’s. The college thing just didn’t work out. Playing online video games since 9th grade didn’t get you that NSA gig. But, you get promoted to assistant night manager but collide with an 85 year old woman who didn’t see you turning. You were celebrating and the cops charge you with a DUI and reckless driving. Well, welcome back, you’re back at the garage sale looking for an old Schwinn.

Get smart, buy a car and get out of my (“our”) way.

PUBLIX “Where Shopping Is NOT A Pleasure”

imagesEveryone in Florida knows Publix. It’s a large grocery store “chain” (supermarket) if you’re not familiar with the name. If you live “up North” you might compare it to Pathmark or Shop-Rite – out West it’s Albertson’s or HEB or Kroger.

I have a long relationship with Publix. I should say had a long relationship – past tense. It was 30 years long to be precise. Sure I’ve tried other stores like Winn-Dixie, Sweetbay and Piggly-Wiggly. I’ve traveled all over the world and throughout the U.S. and shopped at many places, but it was always good to come “home” to Publix where the customer used to be #1.

While many have closed stores, some permanently out of business, others trying to “reorganize” under bankruptcy, Wal-Mart is popping up everywhere. There are two new “super-centers” opening within two miles of where I live.  Publix sadly closed two convenient locations near where I live. There are a few other choices like Target or Aldi, but they cannot compare to a Publix and certainly not Wal-Mart.

Lately, Publix has been in a competitive “war” with Wal-Mart. From my perspective as a long time customer, Publix is losing. Here’s why.

get-reactive-if-you-have-to-parting-ways1. Price. I don’t care what the commercials or comparisons say, I clearly save more money shopping for the same items at Wal-Mart. Why should I pay $4 for a pineapple at Publix when it costs $2.99 at Wal-Mart? Yes, Wal-Mart fruit looks and tastes the same, if not better, for less.

2. Savings. To save money I have to wait until Publix puts an item on sale or decides to offer a buy one get one free item. At Wal-Mart just about is already cheaper. These are American products, not imported from China or Bangladesh or Mumbai or manufactured in some horrible sweat shop.

3. Convenience. In addition to groceries, Wal-Mart has all that other stuff (ie: computer paper) and shopping there saves me an extra stop. There are also far more superior and cheaper private label brands (Equate and Sam’s) at Wal-Mart v. Publix.

4. Stock -Inventory. I don’t understand why and Publix employees don’t either, that they’re constantly out of what I normally buy. It gets worse and worse. Publix now displays an annoying little green tag under where the item used to be that says “out of stock”. Wal-Mart has some out of stock issues, but far fewer than Publix.

5. Quality of Employees #1. Last week I walked into Publix and the “husky” general manager was walking toward me and looked down at the floor. He did not acknowledge me. Yes, he knows me. I’ve always been “professional” to him. I don’t care what “other’ issues he might be dealing with – this is a highly competitive service business – his job is to make sure I’m happy. At least he does not hide in his office, like other Publix managers.

Walli-World-WEBSITE6. Quality of Employees #2. Wal-Mart is Wal-Mart. I know their employees are trying their best. Publix workers are not. And management seems to look the other way. A perfect example of this is Publix cashiers.

They talk to their co-workers, the bagger and ignore the customer standing there about to hand over $150 for groceries. One cashier took a short break to read the front page of the newspaper I was buying. A part time cashier was so tired because of her assigned schedule, she couldn”t help acting like a zombie. They’ve all lost the edge that made Publix a place where “shopping is a pleasure”. I never thought I’d say Wal-Mart employees are friendlier than Publix, but most of them actually are.

I’m well aware of the criticism of Wal-Mart’s human resources policies. But, many Wal-Mart employees I speak to have been there more than five years, some more than ten or fifteen. I know that Publix employees are not better compensated (including benefits) versus Wal-Mart and are not any more “well-treated” than Wal-Mart.

7. Publix on-line “services” are terribly inconsistent. It’s takes too long to get a suitable response to a customer service or inventory issue by e-mail. If you do get a reply – you’re assigned a Law & Order type “case” number – it will most likely be an unsatisfactory lower level  bureaucratic one.

I tried to renew my prescriptions on line and found out the system was “down”. That was after 10 minutes of inputting all my information. Their point of purchase coupon “system” just before you pay with a credit or debit card is cumbersome and unecessary. Forget Twitter or Facebook, where anything negative that is posted is scrubbed.

Bottom line, shopping at Publix is NOT worth the extra prices you pay for your groceries. Sure, Publix will assist you by walking your order out to your car. But I don’t want to pay $5 for milk or $6 for ice tea at Publix for someone to do that. You might spend a few more minutes at Wal-Mart waiting to check out, but the stress of paying less for everything is worth the wait.

If Publix had everything I needed in stock, provided better training and supervision leading to more alert and attentive cashiers and managers, I would consider shopping there. Sadly, they don’t and my wife and I have decided to do all our shopping at Wal-Mart and avoid Publix. They’ve lost our vote. It was a great 25 years Publix, but you have failed me and I know many shoppers around where I live feel the same way and now shop at Wal-Mart. Publix, where shopping is no longer a pleasure.

 

 

Drink All You Want

bloomb-640Regulating soft drink (soda) sizes. It’s ridiculous. Any politician that engages in this idiotic behavior clearly has too much time on their hands. Whether it’s Mayor of NYC Bloomberg or someone else, I do not support or agree with their efforts. It “smacks” of another elected “authority” who seems intent on whittling away at our personal liberties. Their efforts trying to control our very personal decisions are nothing but a violation of our privacy. We’ve all had enough of that. The push back by Americans towards meddling government is stronger than ever. There are so many serious issues to be dealt with – attempting to regulate soft drinks, who people wish to marry and what gun we own is our business, not the concern of local, state or federal legislators. You might very well believe sugar is poison, but I don’t. People kill people, not guns. Tobacco and alcohol, in my opinion, are “evil”, however if you wish to smoke or drink, please feel free to do so. Sodas? Drink all you want.

Ambition

Ambition-CLPAmbition is both a blessing and a curse. I’m convinced it is not learned or acquired, it is definitely in your DNA. I’ve actually admired people with little or no ambition because they seem like happier and calmer people. If you “suffer” from ambition, it is very similar to OCD or obsessive compulsive behavior, overeating or even sexual addition. For certain, you cannot masturbation away ambition. You can most definitely squander it away. Truly ambitious people are ambitious all the time – no off one minute and on the next. Ambitious people die ambitious. Being ambitious is a thorn in your Achilles heel that eats away at you until you attain some sort of temporary satisfaction with your circumstances until “the drive” rapidly begins all over again.

You expect yourself, if ambitious, to be just that all the time. It is not a choice. Your ambition drives or feeds your ambition. People with ambition know of the “swell” that occurs inside you when the “aggressive” chemicals that make up your individual physiology align. Unambitious people don’t have a clue what this is like. The man that secures a job out of high school as a train conductor – his father was also most likely a train conductor – will remain at that same job for 40 years, retire and feel a sense of utter satisfaction that no ambitious person is possibly capable of. The ambitious person has to become the head conductor, then the supervisor, the director of conductors, the vice-president of customer service, the executive vice president of operations and eventually the president of the damn railroad.

Personally, I never wanted to be ambitious. My father was terribly ambitious. He drove himself until he had a heart attack at age 55 and died.  I wanted to be everything unlike him. My brother is ambitious. He has some trouble with it also. I keep trying to somehow will it away. To relabel it in my head as annoying and an untrustworthy emotion. I’ve tried, as Dr. Jeffrey M Schwartz, MD outlines in his book Brainlock to not only reclassify but re-attribute, refocus and revalue my ambitious drive. It has not worked. And unfortunately, the older I’ve become the more intense my ambition has become. The dilemma is to be somehow fulfill ambition despite the ring of opportunities closing in around you because of discrimination and stereotypes.

Let’s be clear about something. Ambition does not equal success. It can cloud judgment and force mistakes, both professionally and personally. There are gobs of unsuccessful ambitious people. Understand also that as uber ambitious as you think you are, there are others who are nine times as ambitious. Combine ambition and talent – look at someone like a Beyonce or Jamie Foxx or Bill Clinton – and the scope of their ambition can be light years ahead of the typical individual. On the other hand, many have squelched their ambition in order to fit in, adapt or be part of some organization or group. You can easily be ambitious and high frustrated.

Ambition also tends to generate luck, which is a key element in success. Would you not agree that if you not seeking something by being ambitious, the tendency for luck to come your way is far less? By the same token, being in the right place at the right time, a component of luck, appears to happen more for those who are ambitious than not. Ambitious people in order to be successful also need to have a good deal of political acumen in order to manipulate their way around other ambitious people. The expression lead, follow or get out of the way comes to mind.

I personally am tired of being ambitious. You might say I’m too ambitious for my own good. At the high level of ambition that I operate at it is difficult to be around “normal” people. Ambition people like me tend to operate better sequestered – outside of the box – way outside the box. After several careers, some successful, others not, I have chosen to write. I’m an ambitious writer, not quite knowing what that means or how to channel it. I’m in transition from one ambitious state to another. Trust me, it is very stressful. I’ve traded abusive demanding unreasonable bosses for me. I’m killing myself. It’s like slow suicide. Some say anger is driving my ambition. Maybe, maybe not. It’s three days into the new year and I’m way behind on my New Year’s resolutions! Will successfully freelancing and being published make me any less ambitious – I unfortunately don’t think so. Wish me luck.

 

 

 

 

 

Parenting

bratty-kidsI thought by now, being really grown up and in my 50′s, that parents would be better (at parenting) than at any other time in my life. Well…they’re not. From what I have observed both here in the U.S. and in my travels elsewhere, they’re definitely not. It seems to me that children used to behave all the time and everywhere. Sure, there were a few exceptions, but now the exceptions, sadly, seem to be the rule.

When my wife and I recognize well behaved children our eyes meet and we know what we’re thinking. In a restaurant a few months ago, there was a table with a single mother (or grandmother) and three well behaved kids. I had to stop by the table and compliment them all. With that I have come full circle from a well behaved child to a well behaved adult that now recognizes and rewards good behavior by well behaved kids with seemingly intelligent well behaved parents. What an amazing concept these days.

Without any doubt, the problem is bad parents. Not being a sociologist or psychologist, I cannot tell you why this is happening, but it is. Think for a moment about bad or rude behavior. Not signaling a turn or lane change, not responding with a thank you when someone holds the door open for you, throwing money on the counter – not handing it to the sales clerk, honking at the car in front of you when the light just turned green. What about making an obscene gesture at someone, going through a 10 only line with 25 items, spraying the toilet seat, not washing your hands or brushing your teeth. All bad behavior, right?

imagesWhat about your children screaming in public? Letting your child walk around without supervision disturbing a meeting ignoring their touching or throwing items around the room? What about a parent allowing their child to annoy passengers on a plane, train or cruise ship? How about how a parent not dealing with the tired, hungry, cranky insanely out of control screaming child in a grocery store? There are the parents who drag their children through malls like dogs that refuse to walk. Parents wheeling older children in strollers because they’re too unmotivated or lazy to get up. How can we forget about the child or children in a restaurant mirroring the behavior of a wild jungle chimpanzees?

What the hell are these parents thinking? Are they ignorant, lazy, uncaring of others around them or all of those. It places those affected by this negative behavior in an uncomfortable position to take action and voice their concern either to the parents directly or to a waiter, flight attendant or store manager. We never have and will never leave in a “Montessori” world, despite the many shortcoming of today’s parents. Discipline is a very lost art. A wack on the behind is not child abuse, it is smart parenting. Adult behavior has consequences, then so should child behavior. But, there seems to be some sort of psychological and physical “governor” on “positioning” children to behave well and properly.

Sure, kids are cute and need a safe environment complete with unconditional love and support. But that does not translate into not controlling, training and TEACHING your child how to behave. I’m a traditionalist. I am a firm believer that children up until around the age of 16 should be seen and NOT heard. That “cone of silence” is the family opportunity to mold this child or their children into decent law abiding people that should become responsible adults. Parents not functioning as parents is just too prevalent now for anyone’s good. Teachers have sadly taken on the role as parents with parents unclear as to what they need to do between school hours.

images (1)Dare I mention family values? It shouldn’t bother you. I’m not asking parents to dress up and go to church on Sunday or shun gays and mixed marriages. I am asking that parents be reborn, not into religion, but into parenting. My parents, when they had a question about behavior, would consult Dr. Spock’s Baby & Child Care book. What do parents do in 2013? Sit the kid in front of the Disney channel or Nickelodeon? Wait for inspiration from Dr. Oz or Phil? Who are the parents modeling? Reality television or Grey’s Anatomy? None of that is working.

There seems to be an arrogance, an accepted level of stupidity on the part of today’s parents. So many people are bothered by it but accept it. Will the next generation be even worse? Just whose role or responsibility is to to judge, correct and teach these “parents” differently? The parents parents are certainly not doing it. Most of the institutions that used to do this are gone or are not listened to any longer. So perhaps it has to be a sort of ground swell effort on all our parts to start re-positioning parents on how to parent. I can’t lay it all on teachers, but since they have the primary interface with parents and their kids, they must be in the forefront. Perhaps we can begin by (again) recognizing their importance in society and immediately start training and compensating them better. It’s a good start.

The Expendables – P1

walmartgreeterNo, not the violent movie directed by Sylvester Stallone, but the men and women aged 50+ who are either underemployed, unemployed or have given up finding a new job or career since the economic collapse of 2009.

That which, despite what the mainstream media tells us, we have not recovered from. What has arisen from the economic ashes is a new but most definitely not better world of far less opportunity for what has traditionally been referred to as the middle class.

If there was a traditional norm of employment, it has disappeared. It is far worse for people 50+. Long ago those afflicted by Leprosy were known as the untouchables. With their significant business and life experience the “pool” of 50+ human resources are, in the minds of companies and hiring managers, sadly both untouchable and expendable. No group, organization or association such as AARP or any government agency or Congress has adequately focused in on this situation nor has proposed a short or long term solution. The money and dynamic for a national retraining program is nonexistent.

If there is any solution it must come directly from the efforts of the people effected in the form of entrepreneurship, innovation and creativity. Many do not possess those skills. One does what one has to do. By that I mean that a 50+ year old person, in order to pay his or her bills and survive, can most likely secure a job at a supermarket bagging groceries or become a door greeter or cashier at a local Wal-Mart. One might work at a craft store, delivering pizza for Domino’s or do handy work for an rental apartment complex. Those are all decent honorable ways to earn a living. However, for many, that ($8/hr)  is 1/3 what they used to make, and there is little financial or advancement incentive associated with those positions.

boomer_coupleThe earnings from those types of jobs put people just above the poverty line certainly well below what used to considered middle class.  I spoke with a part-time cashier at Target, without any benefits, who concurrently held two other jobs to keep her car and home. Someone, who at 50+ has the desire do other things in their life, as those under 50+ do, now find themselves facing a difficult hurdle, no, mountain, trying to secure jobs that will enable them achieve those goals. The economy as a whole cannot grow with people not prospering.

If you have read the job ads online or in the traditional way – a newspaper – you will see that many “good” paying salaried jobs with health insurance and other benefits typically require someone with 1-3 years experience. Many require technical expertise that is difficult to find in all segments of the population. Such training would cost $7500+ to attend an accredited school to obtain those skills and there are no grants or loans available. There is only so much someone with 25-40 years of experience can mask and have their resume considered. Human resources managers insultingly refer to them as boomers, seniors, oldsters and with other discriminatory stereotypical labels. Both personnel and operations managers don’t have the necessary business acumen to know how to integrate 50+ workers in a company.

I’m also both amused and angry at the Tony Robbins wanna-bee “gurus” who sell their services online as (a combination-pack) social media strategists and career coaches.  They pray on the 50+ that are seeking to transition into a better job. I believe prayer works better. These “unprofessionals”  in another earlier era would travel around in an old bus and set up revival tents to shout the jobs devil down and out for a donation or try and sell you their magic employment oil or cure all juice.  You cannot think your way out of poverty or unemployment. Visualization only goes so far. In this new world of utter uncertainty, the 50+ individual has to essentially declare his or own personal war against defeat and pull out all the stops to achieve economic security. It has to be a take no prisoners approach to creating some (legal) income generating situation.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Television

tv-ad-vintageHorrible. Getting worse. Predictable. Who are these (bad) actors? When is it on? So many commercials? Why so loud? Was that the news? Another repeat? Why do I have to tape three programs to see one? Who cares about soccer or football? This is television . Like Twitter and other social media it has been commercialized and bastardized way past the point of everyone’s comfort zone. It is downright annoying. It has seriously jumped the shark. 

There are few alternatives. It’s not as though you can sit down with a “good” magazine – they are equally as annoying. Less intelligent content and pages filled with anorexic men and girls in ridiculous fashions designed for the wealthy to wear on other planets. Most content is pointless and tweet-like, created more for the “friend-me” crowd than intelligent people. The “articles” amateurishly written about fluff mostly by journalist wanna-bees. The art of editing seems to have died. Just like television. 

I couldn’t care less what the large audience for prime time talent shows featuring celebrity judges in spinning chairs is. I ignore the ridiculous claims of the networks that EVERY one of their shows is #1 hit, obviously far from it. The pronouncement that Joe Schmo from some blockbuster movie is executive producing a new television series is meaningless to me. And, despite the supposed law just passed that commercials must be the same volume as the programs they’re advertising on, they’re definitely not. One of the worst commercials of the season was by Target. A strange nerd-like “man” – a “weirdo” – was screaming into a red telephone announcing a sale. Creativity has been replaced by college fraternity antics and shouting. It’s all so pathetic. 

Whether it’s produced by the broadcast networks or cable – reality, drama, comedy or something else – what is being fed to us is garbage. This trash comes and goes split up unevenly and unexpectedly though the year in fake “seasons” with ridiculous mindless cliff hangers in the form of airplane and car crashes, terminal illnesses or gun or bomb violence. Now even smoking is making a comeback. How many times did a show end and you asked yourself if one or more of the characters managed to negotiate a new contract for another season on the program? Will he recover from the heart attack on the beach? Give us a break. Don’t forget many of these actors are pulling down $125K+ per episode. I watched a movie made last year for Hallmark or Lifetime and had no idea who the actors were, nor did I care. 

imagesHave you tried to watch a movie on AMC or Oprah’s Oxygen not-for-prime-time network? Did you think you would ever see fifteen or more commercials in a row? The original movie was a hour and forty-five minutes long but due to the insertion of incessant commercials it has been stretched out to three hours. I tried watching a movie on Bravo and saw the same Stouffer’s meatloaf commercial over and over and over. You wonder if these people have lost their minds. By the way, is there anyone who can figure out when The Actor’s Studio is on?

I’m not going to dwell on reality programming. None of it is worth our time or attention. There is absolutely no value in it. Kim Kar-who the hell cares? The news is just about in the same ballpark. Without a doubt, the best thing to happen to television is the DVR. When my ability to fast forward through commercials is thwarted in any way, I avoid that program. In the case of The Good Wife on CBS, during the football season, nobody has a clue as to when the show begins. It could be 9, fifteen minutes past the hour or later or not on at all. Screw that. The next morning, you can watch the latest episode online with limited or no commercial interruptions.

That is how television should be, no, let me correct myself, it’s how it must be. Same with movies. Forget new releases, pseudo seasons, cliffhangers, premiers. There is no way I’m going to drive to a movie theatre to purchase a Tom Cruise movie or worse – garbage like Django Unchained or The Guilt Trip. We all agree those are guaranteed an express pass to DVD city. But, I just might watch such “products” on demand for 1/2 the price vs. going out to the movies. With a late night show like Craig Ferguson’s, I go to YouTube, select the segment I prefer and watch that – never the entire program. It’s all about what “I” want to see, how “I” want to see it and when.

Television is dying. The craft of good advertising had faded away. “TV” is a mature industry with a foot and a half in dinosaur land. It is slow to adapt. Lack of innovation and acceptance of their fate has lead to loss of audience and disinterest. It’s the same ‘ole – same ‘ole rehashed. It’s as if Congress is managing the television AND movie business. There is a next great revolution waiting in the wings and what are now multi-platforms of how television and movies are viewed will be different AND better. That change sadly should have occurred 5-10 years ago. We wait with open arms.

Photo credits - econsultancy.com and mattsko

 

Christmas – Day After

SNOW“Twas” an awesome Christmas. My son came over and he brought with him some amazing steaks. We cooked crab, salmon and asparagus along with the meat and had some laughs over dinner. Typically our Christmas dinner was spaghetti and meatballs, but this year we broke with tradition and had the fish and steak. Before dinner we headed down to Clearwater beach for a long walk. I was surprised at how crowded it was – thousands of stark white sun deprived tourists littered the beach, and as such, there was no parking available. For the record, Clearwater beach was once a magical place, as most of Central and Southern Florida, but thanks in large part to a clueless local governments and overpaid consultants, the pristine magnificence of the region has vanished. That is why my wife and I save up for a cruise every year or so and head to the Caribbean or Mexico to take advantage of their beaches where the magic still exists.

To distance ourselves from the tourists, we drove South to Indian Rocks Beach. We know a small street with available free parking about 50 yards from the beach. There was no sun out, the water was calm, no wind, quite a change from the last time we were here and the sand hurt the bottom of our feet as the temperature soared toward 100 degrees. We walked along the water for about a 1/2 mile, turned around and headed back home. A woman came up to me and asked if I would take a photograph of her family on vacation and I was happy to comply. Why me I don’t know, there were plenty of other folks walking along – perhaps because I was holding my professional looking Pentax or maybe I just appeared friendly and or safe.

300x200_02201154_02202011mwsnowAfter dinner we drove around in search of Christmas light displays, but with the economy still in the dumps and the “fiscal cliff” looming over everyone’s head few homes put out anything. I found it depressing. The three or four displays we did find were over the top with the home owners obviously making this a priority in their lives and possessing the financial resources and time to erect such elaborate exhibitions. In front of our home we have a Santa “family” that arises with hot air when you plug it in. It also lights up. At the time we bought it a year ago I thought $60 was extravagant at Wal-Mart, but it’s fun and I don’t believe being “dark” at Christmas. When my son was younger he took the time to light up our house, but he works a 60+ week and spends most of this free time attempting to recharge his batteries.

We all enjoyed watching the lousy weather up North and throughout the Mid West with the temperature here in the 70′s. I spent far to many years driving around in that mess wishing I were home for Christmas. And now I am and very grateful. I continue to read “American Wife” by Curtis Sittenfeld when I go to bed.

Photo credit: CHARLIE NEIBERGALL / THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

 

 

 

Christmas Eve – 2012

I DON'T CARE

One of the smartest things I did for myself – before the “holiday” was to join Weight Watchers. I’ve lost weight before, but have not been able to keep it off. I can’t remember how long ago it was but there was a moment in time that I stood in front of a mirror and I thought I looked amazing. I was wearing a black Speedo bathing suit that fit just right. My goal was to to fit into a waist 38 button fly pair of jeans and I did just that. Through a combination of running and a strict diet and a job that was physically demanding, I lost weight. I also happened to be, at the time, separated from my wife and we were living on opposite coasts of Florida. The story is sp familiar, but when we got back together, I gained all the weight back and more. No excuses, just decided I wanted to eat  what I wanted when I wanted, which was pretty much all the time. I stopped caring. I was committing slow suicide. This continued through other life “events” and I ballooned near 350 pounds – then joined Weight Watchers.

 

Enough Twitter and Facebook

After careful consideration, I have decided to no longer “participate” in either Twitter or Facebook. In the case of Twitter, I very unexpectedly had my account suspended for “aggressive” behavior. At the time, I was adding @writers to my followers list. Someone named WillZhou inside Twitter was “watching” me do what I was doing. He or she decided that it was vital to shut me down. Similar has occurred on Facebook. The whole “affair” is childish and was actually interfering with my creative process and my ability to publish posts. Apparently both social media platforms find the need to ignore vile language and messages from right and left wing nut jobs and go after users who desire more followers. It’s insane and I’ve washed my hands of the all of it.

Red Mesa Cantina Review – St. Petersburg FL

Beautiful sunset here in St. Petersburg FL – temperature is about 70, the humidity is low and it’s perfect time to eat outdoors. My son suggested the Red Mesa Cantina and Lucha Bar downtown St. Pete right at the corner – 128 3rd St. South. Public parking is free this Saturday night and there is little traffic to pollute the air. We arrive at 5pm sharp and there are plenty of available tables in the courtyard.

Our server is the lovely Melissa. I order a Smirnoff Bloody Mary, my wife a Black Russian. Guacamole and chips for starters. Many bartenders in Tampa Bay are clueless when it comes to a Black Russian – my wife, Christine, usually sends it back or gives up and switches to an ice tea. The bartender tonight was spot on with both drinks – my wife gave her drink the thumbs up and my BM was excellent with two large green olives. The only thing that would have make it even more perfect would have been a celery stick and a large freshly peeled shrimp.

My son ordered the shrimp Fajita, my wife the Cuban Torta and for me, the special, fresh tuna Nachos. Christine and I shared Apple Empanda. The coffee was served warm.

I would return just to have another Bloody Mary. The tuna was excellent and would like the opportunity to try another one of their specials. I would order both the Empanda and try their version of a Banana Split.

The cost for 3 was $70.62 without the tip. I would prefer the service just a tad faster, the coffee hotter and more napkins brought to the table. Overall, I rate the experience a “B”.

Table 78/1

12/15/2012

6:07pm

#70053

Review – Sonny’s BBQ Pinellas Park FL

Quite obviously, you have good days and bad days. This particular Saturday was errands day combined with looking at used cars. Throw into the mix endless traffic lights, road construction, an unseasonal high temperature and you just want to find a nice cool place to hide out for a while. After we left the last miserable car lot of the day, we just pulled into what was closest – Sonny’ Real Pit BBQ. At that point it mattered little where we ate. Everything else was turning out so rotten, there could be little that any Red Lobster, Olive Garden or Sonny’s would do to make things any worse. 

Sonny’s is a place for pre-retirement, working class, Harley owning traditionally middle class people. Very much a similar crowd that you would find on a Carnival cruise to Mexico or the Caribbean. It is cuisine KISS style – simple no nonsense beans, slaw and rib stuff. For $13.99 you can stuff you face off with a sampler BBQ plate with corn bread. After 15 years of being an over the road trucker, I felt right at home here. The only things missing were the chrome shop and showers. 

Straight away we were quickly seated in a booth that was comfortable. Booths – real ones – are fading away like comfortable airline seats. How many places on earth can you sit and not be squashed? Greyhound bus? No way. McDonald’s? You’re kidding. Doctor’s waiting room? Nope. Finding a decent booth in restaurants these days is rare and most of us opt to sit in chairs, which in many cases are worse than the booths. Prime example is the nasty evil trend of deli’s and diners to use plastic Home Depot type colored lawn “chairs”. 

My wife, Chris, ordered a Black Russian. We are NOT beer drinkers – I would say 99% of Sonny’s patrons order a Bud Light. She needed a drink. Yes, we are well aware that this was not the place to order a cocktail, but she – we – were desperate. It was two for one happy hour or it’s your lucky day or something. Our waiter, Bob, asked if we wanted both drinks combined – one large glass, small glass, tall – short? Chris looked at Bob and said “traditional”. Poor man was utterly confused. They negotiated a “whatever” and to the “bartender” the request went. 

I got a large “trucker” sized diet Coke. Screw you Mayor Bloomberg. Chris got her “drink” – a biege cream Russian. The “bartender” thought it best to add Bailey’s Irish Creme to what might have been something resembling a BLACK Russian. Chris demanded the horribly defective “drink” be removed from the table and replaced by an ice tea – trucker sized as well.

Since we decided not to take part in the $3.99 all you can eat salad bar, we waited “patiently for our meal. Chris ordered the $12.99 Baby Back Rib Platter and I the SUPER $13.99 combo. Being the cheapskate that I am, I felt Bob should have comp’d Chris’ $2.29 ice tea because of the Bailey’s Irish Creme almost Black Russian screw-up, but then “whatever”.

I want to “stress” that we were having a lousy day. We just pulled in this place. We took a chance. The last time we ate here – not this location – was about 22 years ago and it was horrible. But, we needed refuge from the maddening crowd. We needed simple comfort food. So guess what? We got it. From the time we walked in, the environment was easy, friendly and accomodating. Whoever is the manager here is doing an outstanding job. Bob, our waiter was amazing. And that’s exactly what Chris and I needed – great attitude, experienced, didn’t run away and hide after the food was brought to the table and had an equally excellent server backing him up.

The food was hot, tasty and most definitely BBQ. It was delicious.The slaw, beans, ribs and corn bread were fresh and tasty. On the table were 4 different BBQ sauces, plenty of large napkins and hand/face wipes. I had BBQ chicken on my “sampler” plate that was excellent. Surprisingly not greasy. Neither of us needed to go boxes. We had no room for “dessert”. $33.77 was the total. Taking the entire “experience” into consideration, our moods and how a restaurant can temporarily insert some joy into your life – I give Sonny’s an “A”. 

Table 504/1 10/20/2012 4:25PM 20021 Guests: 2 Server: Bob 

Voting For Romney – Absolutely – Maybe?

Until the debate I was undecided. I would really rather vote for someone that is a “better” combination of Ron Paul and Hillary Clinton. I voted for Obama. His presidency has, to say the least, been “challenging” for me. He did some good things, but not enough in my opinion, and I was not in favor of the auto bailout. I think he is a lousy salesman and his administration has miserably failed to “explain” what they’ve been doing. I supported the ending of “Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, but felt he did not go far enough with health care and immigration reform. He should have pulled us out of Afghanistan during his first year in office. 

Then, Romney clobbered Obama in the debate. I liked Romney’s style. To be honest, I don’t care how he supposedly manipulated the facts, there isn’t a politician that doesn’t. I took it personally that Obama screwed up – again. I voted for this man and I expected him to deliver – to demonstrate to me why the heck I should vote for him a second time. He let me (us) down. It was when Romney took his debate notes from the podium, folded the pages, then handed them to his son, that I decided to vote for him. I look for little things like that in judging people. I made the decision to vote for Romney. 

That was about 48 hours ago. I’ve been nauseous ever since. And things have been happening to me – weird things. I was searching in the closet in my office for something when an African rain stick hit me on the head. I haven’t seen it for years, forgot I had it and have no clue why it reappeared. Have you ever seen one? It looks like a small log – about a yard long – with little rocks or pebbles inside. You shake it and it makes a rattle snake noise. It got me right between the eyes in the middle of my forehead. 

Then there were the disappearing raisins. I made a tuna sandwich on delicious onion rye for my wife to take to work. I put a little box of raisins on the top of the bag for her as a mid morning snack. Well, she took something else and left both for me. I’m all alone in the house. I opened the refrigerator, saw the sandwich and raisins, got some water, then closed the door. I opened the bottle and took a sip. I opened the refrigerator to get the sandwich and the box of raisins were gone. Oher things happened too – there was that lightning bolt – but they’re to scary for me to discuss, 

Something just doesn’t feel right since I decided to vote for Romney. I darkened the circle next to his and Paul Ryan’s name on my official general election ballot, but I keep getting the urge to white it out. It’s like a drumming in my head. Truth be told, I don’t think it’s Romney or Ryan per se, but it must have something to do with my hatred of former Bush Republicans. Guys like Dick Cheney and John Sununu. If these men become part of a Romney administration, I don’t think I could live with myself having voted against Obama.

The day after the debate, I saw Obama on television at a rally, all cheers and positive talking about wind and solar energy. I asked myself why is he still talking about that. A Republican friend of mine said to me that she wondered why Obama isn’t apologizing to his supporters for his terrible debate performance. She added, Obama is, after all, so good at apologizing for things. Well, that hurt, but she wasn’t entirely off the mark. Then the jobs report came out. I just can’t fathom those numbers – they don’t jive with the reality around me. 

I really don’t want to see any more debates, I tuned out the political ads long ago and the press appears as lost and confused. They’ve been that way ever since Obama was elected. I have the bottle of white out ready. I was all set to commit to Romney, but I am absolutely not going to – can’t – give my support to Republicans. There is too much trash talking about Obama and the Democrats by Republicans I despise and hold partially responsible for mess the country is in right now. I thought I had it all settled in my mine, but damn it all if I’m not sure, again.

 

The Evil Car Industry

Just for the record, I was never in favor of any auto industry bailouts. Call it shallow or petty, but I wanted to see “them” fail as payback for all the crap “they” put consumers through. Would it help if I gave you just a small list? Recalls, overpaid executives, poor quality, low mileage, impossible to repair engines, expensive replacement parts, difficult access to things like air conditioning, filter and transmission, overpriced choices, terrible dealerships, miserable service and annoying misleading commercials. I despise how the car manufacturers destroyed Detroit and their reliance on tax payer dollars. Don’t forget that at one time car manufacturers were no better than the cigarette industry. Both have been responsible for thousands of uneccesary deaths. 

The auto industry has a type of Todd Akin 50′s mentality where little has changed since Henry Ford installed an assembly line. Car salespeople are held in as much esteem as Congress and lawyers. Women buyers are not respected. Pricing is a shell game. Cars are perhaps more boring and alike in their designs now than at any other time in auto history. The interiors of most models are constructed of Crayola colors of cheap plastic.It’s a wonder the typical car doesn’t melt in the summer heat. No one talks about what’s under the hood anymore, the focus is on push button starting and if the vehicle is BlueTooth equipped. Cute has replaced style. The government has given the industry thirteen years to achieve satisfactory miles per gallon performance – all of which should have been accomplished years ago. 

While everyone deserves to earn a decent living, I’ve had the displeasure of dealing with auto workers. I could only hope that teachers and other undervalued jobs could be compensated and provided with such “Cadillac” benefits as unioned auto employees. At the plant level, the auto workers I interfaced with were arrogant, lazy, uncaring and operated similar to oxygen starved whales. I experienced that both was in the United States as well as in Canada. There are no iconoclasts in the car business. Seriously bad management has plagued the industry and that combined with greedy unrealistic union demands makes the average engineering students was to dedicate his life to robots to build automobiles. 

Then there are the dealers. Are these the small businessmen that Romney keeps referring to? Building it all by themselves? Getting their faces on television and radio shouting about the “deals” that will make you happy. Cars lined up at night in lots illuminated by wasted electricity.Their shady methods of conducting business backed up banks, credit unions and finance companies who insist on perfect credit scores for tightly held loans that few have access to. Buying an automobile is an experience similar to going to the dentist for a root canal. All the commercials in the world showing how awesome it is to purchase a car will not change people’s reality of “dealing” with a car salesperson as evil.

Is there hope? Hum. Can we say AMAZON? 

Buying a car online is equally as frustrating and inefficient.   

Yaba daba doo time…

Unlike a lot of “typical” men, I do not enjoy sports or cars. It’s just not in my DNA. It all started way back when my parents asked what kind of car I’d like. Middle class back then meant my father could afford to do this for me. It was right after a knee injury ended my brief high school football AND baseball career. Sports was over for me, but cars interested me.

 A Triumph TR-6 and a Volkswagon Karmann Ghia. Both sporty cool cars. My parents immediately said no. The Triumph was too small and thus they thought I would probably die in it and the Volkswagen was a German car. We were “not” serious Jews, but lived near a very serious Conservative Temple and a Karman Ghia in our driveway would probably mean we would be “shunned” in the neighborhood and not be allowed in the very serious Jewish deli.

So being on the safe side my father said I had to chose between a Chevrolet or a Chrysler. That meant he could afford either a Nova or a Duster. Both little fat heavy symbols of old world Detroit engineering. Thank goodness they didn’t insist on a four door. My parents drove a Town & Country Chrysler station wagon – a tank of a vehicle. It was white and had to be specially ordered from the factory. I’m sure it had to be shipped to the dealer on its own railcar. It seated 9 people not including luggage and a pet. I’m sure it ran on jet fuel. 

My parents were not wild people, but my mother decided one year to order a yellow Town & Country instead of white. We waited 13 weeks for it. My mom picked out a new yellow flowered dress with matching hat and shoes to celebrate it’s arrival. My brother and I had to wear our Sunday best which for me also meant a haircut, tie and jacket and new white buck shoes. When we got to the dealer, my mother broke out into tears. It wasn’t the yellow she had picked out and it had wood panels. My father refused delivery and we waited 13 more weeks for a white model.

In the meantime, I was, poor me, stuck with a white two door Chevrolet Nova. The salesman said a “kid” like me could do all kind of “easy” things to the car like raise the suspension, zoop-up the engine, extend the tail pipes, get bigger shinier wheels and even race it through the Drive-In movie parking lot. I smiled and agreed manly man style while knowing I could’t care less about doing anything to this smaller far less sexy version of an Impala. During the time I owned it, I always kept both a picture of the Triumph and the VW in my wallet. 

A few years later, after moving out of my parents home, I tried buying a Triumph TR-7. Oh how I loved that car. The “deal” lasted about three days. I put $100 down to hold it, which you could back then, and damn it all if I chickened out. I was afraid I couldn’t make the payments. Having totalled the Nova, I was carless. My boss said I could borrow one of the older company vehicles – a pink Impala with white interior and manual transmission. I had no clue how to drive a stick. I managed to pull it out in the middle of Thomas Rd., a very busy street in Phoenix, AZ and there it and me sat until someone came out to rescue us. 

For a while I borrowed cars and took cabs, until my bother in law sold me his – Chevrolet Caprice. I took this blue and white monster in and out of Wall St. in NYC for about a year. Parking attendants would fight over who would park it. If I still had the car in prestine condition it would be worth $50K. Like my parents station wagons this was a special order from Detroit with EVERY available factory installed option with the largest motor that engineers could concieve of at the time. The man I later sold it to cheap thought he had fallen into auto heaven. 

I had just been hired on by NBC. My wife and I bought a home about a mile away from where my parents lived. Nothing much had changed. The Jewish deli was still there as was the very serious Conservative Temple down the road. My father had passed away and my mother moved down to Florida. On the opposite side of the road where the Temple is there was the Church my wife attended. The prohibition on German cars was over and the Jewish deli offered too much in the way of cholesterol. I was free to buy what I wanted, almost. My father in law, a Veteran of World War II, still despised Japanese cars – so Toyota or Datsun (now Nissan) was not an option.

There was this cute little red Renault in the showroom and I bought it. I got home a few days later and it had been delivered and sat in my driveway. The next day I was due to speak at a conference in Washington DC and rather than take the shuttle or train, I decided to drive my brand new car. I pulled into the Hilton Hotel driveway 230.9 miles later with the car smoking so badly, the valet almost called the fire department. The car was a 5 speed and I had just about stripped all the gears and badly worn down the brakes. 

Earlier, I threw caution to the wind and decided to learn how to drive a manual transmission on I-95. How difficult could it be. There was no PrePass back then. I prayed that Jesus would allow me to somehow slow down but yet keep slowly moving while I handed the toll taker the money. The worst part was not having exact change. Working the clutch and finding gears was next to impossible for me even after 4 hours and 24 minutes of trying. 

Between trying to down shift, find toll money, see though the smoke from the burning transmission and praying I would get the car in gear, I was a nervous wreck. I was terrified of stopping to go to the rest room. Despite being winter, when I got to the conference I was soaked from sweat and I could hardly move my right arm and left foot. I drove that car for many years, until it was yabba-dabba-do time. I actually had to put my feet through the holes in the floorboard to assist slow the car down. When I traded it in, the salesman said he’d never drove a car with such a badly worn clutch, no brakes or gears. 

Since then, I’ve owned a Chevy Neon and a BWM. At present, by choice, working from home, I am happily car-free. My wife “allows” me to borrow her “wheels” if I need to go somewhere. My son, quite the serious car enthusiast, now drives a Mercedes. The first week after he gets a new vehicle, he starts picking out his next one. I had a older and wiser friend who used to work with me many years ago. He was what they call “old” money. With all his wealth, he drove the most inexpensive used beat-up car. To him, a car was only something to get you from point A to point B. My feelings exactly.

Will I ever own another car? Probably not. Maybe a motorcycle. Wouldn’t a vintage Volkswagon Karmann Ghia be cool?

 

 

Stop CISPA