May 31, 2010


Like most advanced middle-agers, I recall when there were only 3 television stations to watch.  NBC, CBS, and late-comer ABC.  It was an exciting time.  If a family could swing the very hefty (for the time) price tag of 700 dollars for an Admiral, Philco or Motorola television set, then a few dollars more for a set of rabbit ears, they were in the business of being entertained.  There was nothing more to buy.  Until the next television set of course.  All the programming was free and all you had to do was sit through the commercials, which could be kind of entertaining in themselves.

Cut to today.

Last night, on a whim, I counted how many stations were available on my present cable service.  I reached 587 before I lost interest.  Of course, I couldn't access all of those channels, unless I had purchased the "Super Supreme" package from Comcast, but there were an awful lot of them that I could.  One could only speculate how much an individual would pay per month to have full access to every freaking channel available from Comcast (or "Xfinity" if you prefer ... sounds like a porn channel ... nice new name Comcast).

In our household, we purchase a cable television package one step above "basic cable".  If Comcast's packages were comparable to the Indian caste system, it would be called the Shudra.  In fact, this is not a bad idea and I ought to present this to them as a means to make more money than they presently do, which right now is comparable to the gross national product of Canada.  Just think, wouldn't you rather be a Vaishya, Kshatriya or even a Brahman ... rather than a lowly Harijan?

For a fun exercise, try this:  Count how many channels you can actually receive in your current cable package. Now, count how many of these channels that you actually watch ... hmm ... lets say more than 3 times per week. Now, take your total cable bill and divide it by the number of channels you actually watch.

Wow, that sucks, doesn't it?  In my case, it works out to 26 dollars a channel per month.  This is almost as good of a deal as the 52 dollars a month that I pay to AT&T for local calls only.  But of course, with Ma Bell, I have the "peace of mind" of knowing that my land line phone is always there in case the batteries on my cell phone die. Believe it or not, this is their latest marketing gimmick to keep you as a customer.

Once upon a time, some poor politician came up with the idea of cable companies charging you for only the channels that you wanted to watch, instead of being charged for a package that was filled with "Community Bulletin Boards" and Shamwow infomercials.  This was such a terrific idea that the politician soon found himself in the proverbial company of Luca Brasi ... i.e., sleeping with the fishes.

As I have often thought, the wobbly beginnings of the 21st century have left us facing too many choices, too many decisions to make that cause us to stress about things that didn't even exist until just recently.

But, I can still watch "The Outer Limits" on Sunday night. It just costs me the price of two weeks of groceries.


May 24, 2010

A Diss By Any Other Name ...

The other day at work, I was bitching to some unlucky soul who had walked into my cube about how overly "computerized" the operation seemed to have become.  I speculated that 40 years ago, before computers in the work place became the norm, the task I was trying to accomplish would have taken 80% less time to do, because there wouldn't have been five different customized programs and a zillion key strokes to do it. People found a simpler way with a pencil, a piece of paper and a phone call or two in 1970.

The person I was ranting at listened for a minute, then put their hand on my shoulder and said, "Rob, you are a true luddite".  Then they left.

And I sat there.  "Luddite" ... "What the fuck is a luddite?"  Not knowing whether or not I had been insulted, I sat there for a minute and thought it through. Being a child of the 60's, I wondered if they meant I was a fan of the host of the daytime quiz show "Password" ... Mr Allen Ludden himself.  No, then I would have been a "Luddenite".

I Was A Luddenhead, And Proud Of It!

Incidentally, I remember when I was a pre-teen growing up in the land of Country Music, I was always struck by the similarity of Allen Ludden and the Country Superstar, Porter Wagoner, who graced our TeeVee sets every Saturday evening at 6:30 with the always amusing Porter Wagoner Hour.

Porter With Ingenue Dolly 

I was under the impression that they were brothers, or maybe cousins, but as I would find out years later, the only link between the two men was their brief marriages to sitcom slut Betty White.

Anyway, after I had dismissed Allen Ludden, the thought occurred to me that perhaps I was being compared to that delicious cherry lozenge that every child craved, whether or not they had a cough/sore throat ... The Ludens Cough Drop.

Better Than Twizzlers!

I could pop a whole box of these things in my mouth at one time, then walk around for an hour drooling red cough syrup juice.  This might explain my recent diagnosis of early onset dementia.

But if I was being compared to a particularly ineffective cough drop, then I would be a "Ludennite".  So that was out too.

Finally, I went to that well known fountain of all factual knowledge in the civilized world, Wikipedia, to answer my question.  And the result was this:

General Ludd

Apparently, the Luddites were the follower of this cross-dressing clown, who in the first decade of the 1800's, violently opposed the mechanized looms that came into existence at the beginning of The Industrial Revolution. These textile "artisans" became so bent out of shape that they rioted and pillaged until the British government rounded a bunch of them up and shot them.  Personally, I don't think anyone would have taken them too seriously anyway given their laughable taste in clothing.  Perhaps they would have had more success if they had been fronted by this great leader ...

General Zod
Curse You Superman!

So, net-net, it appears that I was insulted!  I was accused of being a technophobe!  But ... at least it was done cleverly.  I guess that counts for something.

Luddite indeed.

May 22, 2010

Myslel Proving Známky

It's almost midnight ... Saturday is disappearing into Sunday and I've got a major case of the fuzzies, but if you can read Czech, you'll know what this is all about.

What do you want at Midnight?

May 15, 2010

Germophobe No-Cuts Asshole

Scene Fade In:

For reasons unexplained, Rob and Jan find themselves grocery shopping at the local WalMart Supercenter at 7:00 p.m. on a Saturday evening.  They stand in line putting their low, low everyday price foodstuffs on the check-out belt.

Red-Faced Old Man Holding Pink Pocketbook (RFOMHPP):  "My, this is the shortest line I could find and I only have one thing to buy."

Me:  "I do not wish to converse with you."

RFOMHPP: "Huh? Could I go ahead of you?  I only have one thing."

Me:  "Sure, if you give me ten dollars."

RFOMHPP:  (Sputter) "What?  But I only have one item."

Me:  "The price is ten dollars, or you wait".

RFOMHPP:  "Sputter" ... {Silence}

Cut to:  Ugly Mother and Troll Son in Front of Rob and Jan:

Troll Son: "AAAACHOOO!"

Ugly Mother:  "Derek!  Cover your nose when you sneeze!"

Troll Son:  "Blub." (Pulls t-shirt tail out of his shorts and wipes his nose)

Me:  "Awww SHIT kid."

Troll Son:  "AAAACHOOO!"  (Ugly Mother puts hand up to Troll Son's nose just as he lets go, then uses same hand to punch in password on card swipe keyboard, then leaves)

Me:  "Awww SHIT!"

Walmart Check-out Person (WMCOP):  "Hi!  How are you this evening?"

Me:  "Do you have any Lysol?"

WMCOP:  "Yes, in aisle 8."

Me:  "No, I mean here."

WMCOP:  "No."

Me:  "Awwww SHIT!" (Punches in password on card swipe keyboard with elbow)

Scene:  Fade Out ...

May 11, 2010

Reason #318 Why Society As We Know It Is Doomed

In a mere 10 to 15 years, something has happened so under-the-radar in our present day to day routines, that I'm not sure we really noticed it.  Being married for such a long time, I never really paid much attention to it, until this evening, when I read an article in one of the on-line news sites about ...

Dating.  About how men and women meet each other, both with the hopes of finding a companion.  The article was about several new-start up companies who specialize in managing a person's dating life. It seems that there is a large section of the population who don't even have the time to spend putting their profiles on-line and searching for someone who shares their interests or goals.

Just think about it for a minute, we've become a group of people who don't meet potential mates through school, work, church, clubs, bars; or through friends, family and acquaintances; or even by chance.  Instead, we sit in front of a computer screen, search and evaluate other people like we would for a used car, a house or a winter coat.

Now, apparently, there is a sub-group of individuals who are even too busy (translation: lazy) to do even that.  They will pay someone to write their bio, put it on line, screen their potential matches, set up "dates" and keep a running tally of what worked and what didn't.  I don't believe that these services go as far as take your potential date out on a test drive, but that seems to be the next logical extension of the concept.

If all of this has occurred in just the last 10 or 15 years, imagine what it will be like in another 50.  This sort of social activity, so cutting edge now, will seem to have belonged in the dark ages.

Sometimes I wonder if any of us who met, became friends and fell in love in the traditional ways would ever have met our husbands and wives under the way things are done now.  And of course, some people would wish they never had.  But there are others, like me, who would have missed a lot of great things.

I'm perfectly aware that society must always move forward to progress and to prosper.  Nothing can stay the same way it was forever.

But there are certain things that should be left just the way they are.

May 10, 2010

Wikipedia Ruined My Reading Experience

I haven't read a book in a long time.  Feeling shameful, and remembering a somewhat okay review by a fellow web chronicler, I stopped by our local library and found a copy of Stephen King's "Under The Dome".  After borrowing a two-wheeler from the helpful library ladies so I could lug the 10,000 page tome out to my truck, I took it home and began reading.

And once again, the Kingster had a great premise for a novel.  The kooky residents of another town near Castle Rock, Maine are going about their business on a sunny Fall day, when all of a sudden a big fucking dome slams down around the entire town resulting in an airplane crash, a semi tractor trailer explosion, a pacemaker blowing up in the sheriff's chest and a severed woodchuck.  All this in the first ten pages.

At this point I was sidetracked by a thought.  I've read a lot of Stephen King novels, and if you took each time a story was set in or around the town of Castle Rock, Maine, then extrapolated, multiplied, divided, added and subtracted; the theoretical population density of Maine would be 43 towns and 4,343,285 people per square foot, give or take an inch.

Anyway, I was off to the races on my book and was looking forward to all the twists and turns that would culminate in some satisfying conclusion.  Also, if some pollster stopped me on the street and inquired as to the last book I had read, I wouldn't have to tell him it was "The Cat In The Hat", or worse, just become flustered and tell him that print was dead.

But first, I had to make dinner.  And after dinner was eaten and the dishes cleared, I got sidetracked again on my laptop (this happens a lot).

Long story short, through my awful habit of Googling everything to death, I happened to run across a synopsis of "Under The Dome" on the fountain of all purely factual information, Wikipedia.  And although I told myself not to read it, pleaded with myself not to read it, threatened myself not to read it ... well, I read it.


Well, it turns out that this novel is just about like another one of King's novels, "The Stand".  Everyone in the town divides up into "good and evil" groups.  There's a lot of skullduggery and Judas like betrayals until the big apocalyptic fight at the end.  And when the secret of the dome is revealed, it turns out to be some fucking prank by a bunch of punk-ass teenage aliens from outer space, who basically get bored and lift up the dome.  The End.

Fuck me ...

So, I don't know whether I should be glad that Wikipedia saved me the time reading this thing, only to find out I had been hoodwinked by a lame-o ending, or I should have just plowed through it to maintain my reading skills.  Probably the latter.

Maybe next time I'll just stick to Dr. Seuss.

May 09, 2010

Finding Mr. Right

After almost a quarter century in our home, Jan and I decided that this was the year to replace the windows. Sure, it's been fun watching moisture develop in between the panes, and completely dismantling them when we want to clean them ... and most of all holding a lighted match by one of them in a windstorm and watching it blow out.

But you can only have so much fun, and before we are awakened in the middle of the night by a crash as our bedroom window falls out of it's moorings and hits the patio below (this actually happened to one of our neighbors), we decided to have all of the windows replaced.

One of the hardest parts of starting a home improvement project, unless you do it yourself (bad idea), is to find the right person to do the job.  Personally, I'd rather have teeth pulled than to do this, but since it's unlikely to have someone show up at your door unannounced and volunteer, it's absolutely necessary.  People have asked me how I pick the contractors I use to work on my home, and the answer is simple.  I pull out the phone book and look for a name I like.  This has worked amazingly well for us up to this point.

For the windows, I decided to stay away from the ads by the window biggies ... Andersen, Pella, Feldco, etc.  The reason is simple.  I don't know who is going to install them, and I want a concrete person and address so that if things go to shit, I have a physical place to burn down and piss on the ashes. Hopefully, it never comes to that, but it makes me feel better just knowing.

This past week, I called three construction companies to schedule times for estimates.  The first place never returned my call, the second did, as did the third one. The third guy, we'll call him "Lester", I wasn't to sure about.  He sounded like he didn't have his teeth in and it took me a good minute to make sure that he had the address right.

On Saturday, guy #2 shows up.  He asked us what kind of windows we wanted and if we had a preferred brand.  He took the measurements outside, made sure he had my e-mail address, and sent me the estimate within 5 hours.

And then Lester called.  He had lost our address, and even though his residence was only one town over and had lived in the area over 50 years, he wasn't sure where our village was, even though it was incorporated in 1956. After 5 minutes of detailed street-by-street, turn-by-turn directions, I hung up and waited.

And waited.  After an hour, I looked out the front window and saw a van parked at the end of the street, with a befuddled looking old man standing in the street staring at our street marker.  Figuring that this was Lester, I walked out in the driveway and whistled at him. After a short pause, he seemed to get the idea that I was the person he was looking for.

Lester was about a hundred years old.  He lectured us for about 15 minutes on how nobody puts in windows right anymore, and then proceeded to measure the individual panes of every fucking window in the house, even though they were all the same size.

After collecting his measurements, he told us that we would be able to use all of the same trim on the inside and the outside of house, because he wouldn't have to remove it.  Sensing that Lester and I weren't on the same page, I asked him just what part of the window unit he planned to replace, and he replied "just the panes".  After explaining exactly what I perceived a window replacement to consist of, Lester took his rule and measured every fucking window a second time and departed ... after two hours.

Now, if this were a warm-hearted story, you would know that I would pick Lester to replace our windows.  But the fact is, I wouldn't let that befuddled old sod replace a light bulb in the house, little alone an integral part of it.

Maybe this phone book thing has some glitches in it after all.

May 06, 2010

Bad Ass Muthas

For those of you just awakening from a coma and have subsequently missed the barrage of television, radio and on-line reminders, this Sunday is Mother's Day.  So if your Momma lives out of state, you'd better get a card, sign it and get it in the ... OH, TOO LATE!  Better luck next year!

If anyone cared to ask my opinion, I'd tell them that Mother's Day is just another one of those made-up special occasions to sell merchandise.  But that's not a real popular opinion, so I generally keep it to myself.   Most people use the day to "honor" the woman who brought them into the world, and to share favorite memories.

My favorite memory of my dear Mother is the many times she became enraged with me and, shaking with the holy spirit, handed me a butcher knife and told me to go "cut a switch" from the elm tree in the back yard, because she was going to beat the living shit out of me.  She also called me "stupid" a lot too, but that one was probably deserved, given the many times I was handed a knife and didn't use the opportunity to back her in a corner rather than receiving the business end of a tree limb.

Ha, ha!  But I joketh too much.  And besides, those types of recollections are better saved for my therapist.

I'm sure Mothers as a group feel bad at times about the poor decisions they made in raising their offspring. Some feel so bad that they will write into confessional websites just to unburden themselves of their guilt.  I ran across such a place this afternoon and, as always, would like to share ...

"I wish my teenage children would run away from home so I can have some peace."

"I sometime wish we only had one child.  My second born is always crying and just a pain in the ass."

"When my son was little, I was always bored playing stupid games with him.  I wonder if he noticed this."

"1 day with my 2 and 4 year old is like torture.  They fight, I scream .. it goes on and on and I cant wait until they are both in school so I can have some peace."

"I'm a bad mother because I tired to clean the shit of my baby, wash my husband clothes and walk the dog.  I'm going crazy!  I would like to let all just go bannannas."

"Yesterday, my husband and I put the baby down for a nap, then sent the bigger kids off to the neighbors for an hour so we could have sex."

"I think to be a bad mom!! and my huosband is better then me!  in fact my baby prefer him to me! sob."

"My 3 children have frustrated me a lot this week and I have yelled at them using the F bomb!"

"Sometime I think my one year old might be the spawn of Satan."

"I'm a bad mom because I hate my husband's kids from his first marage and encorage my 4 year old to beat up on her 9 year old half sister because frankly my 4 yr old is prettier, smarter and better in every way," 

Yeesh!  And these weren't the worst ones.  Each of them would make an excellent public service announcement for contraceptives.

Shit, even with the knives and switches, my Mom wasn't that bad.  Of course she never had anonymous websites to write into either.  Thank heavens for modern technology ...

Happy Mother's Day Ma!

May 05, 2010

Prank Call

I make very few outside calls from work.  In fact, I make very few inside calls.  The people I work with prefer to communicate by e-mail and IM.  So, not having used the phone in a month, it was no surprise when I picked it up and found it to be dead as a doornail.  I've had the same problem with the phone twice before and although I'm told nothing seems to be wrong with it, it works for about a day or two, and then turns back into it's petulant, non-functioning self.

Ever the optimist, I hoped for a minute that everyone else's phones were out too, so I went next door to another cube and tried the phone there.  "Let's see ... 9 - 1 - etc."  Shit, it worked.

I would have to call I.T. and go through the same bullshit I did last time to get it to work again.  But I had other things to do, so I occupied myself and forgot about the phone.

About 10 minutes later, a panicked looking woman appeared at my opening and asked me if I knew where "Mary Smith" was.  It seems she had received an emergency call from her family.  I had talked to "Mary" that morning and knew she was going to be in another building that day and that she could find her there.

While we were standing in the hallway, a security guard rushed up to us and asked if we knew where "Mary Smith" sat.  It seems that there had been a 911 call that had originated from her phone about 15 minutes ago.

"Blink" ... It took me about that long to put two and two together, and then another second to 'fess up.  I told the rent-a-cop about my foray into "Mary's" office and that I must have put another "1" on that 9 - 1.  Then I looked at the "panicked woman" and wondered how the fuck she had garbled the 911 message into "family fucking emergency".  I mean ... really!

The guard took my name, I guess to put on their homeland security watch list, and all was right with the world again.  It was then I realized that I was not embarrassed about the incident.  Not in the slightest. And I thought that a mere 5 years ago, I would have been so mortified that I would have crawled into a hole.

As they say, times change.  And as I've said before, age has it's benefits.  Like you don't get blown out by the occasional social faux paux.

I'm kinda liking this "getting old" shit.

May 03, 2010

When The Swallows Return To Capistrano

This past weekend was almost textbook perfect.  Sunny to partly cloudy days in the 70's and a brief period of rain overnight, just to freshen everything up.  Time to purty up the yard!

In Northern Illinois, spring creeps up on you slowly. March is your in-between month, where winter loosens it's grip and you get a few tantalizing days in the 60's ... just to give you a taste.  You think April is going to be the turning point to good weather, but it often disappoints, with cold rain and nasty winds, and maybe even a stray snowflake here or there.  But May is it.  Even if the weather doesn't say so, your mind has had it, and it convinces you that it's time to start doing outside stuff.

And like me, almost everyone in our quaint little bedroom community was out in their yards.  Mowing, mulching, digging, planting, clipping ... and at the end of each wonderful weekend day, moaning in agony as the body's muscles scream at you for still thinking that you're 15 years old.  Because if you were 15, you sure as shit wouldn't be out in the yard trying to beat yourself into the ground.  Youth is wasted on the young.

And at work this morning, almost everyone showed up grimacing and limping.  Me because my muscles ached and I had tried to amputate a large portion of my right heel.  And everyone had new color.  Dark skin tones were darker.  Medium skin tones were splotchy and normally lilly white skin tones were an angry red.

I'm kind of in-between the last two categories.  My face is tanned, my neck is burned and my forearms are two-toned, just like a 1961 Chrysler Imperial.  And by the end of the summer, I'll have an official "farmer's tan", because I refuse to take off my shirt outside,  just as any self-aware 58 year old should never consider.  My official reason is because my torso looks like I was second runner-up in a knife fight due to a series of unfortunate operations twenty years ago.  But the real reason is because I don't have rock hard abs and pecs and glutes and all of those other manly muscle groups.  But this doesn't seem to stop other men.

My personal favorite are males in the 250 to 300 pound range between the age of 40 and death, with skin the color of the underside of an Orca, and a scraggly rug on their chest and back.  Invariably, they have impressive man-boobies that sag toward the side with nipples that point straight toward the earth.  I'm so embarrassed for these mopes, that I have to avert my eyes before they are burned out of their sockets.  How can these asswipes think that they look presentable?

A question as old as the ages, I'm sure.

But, like screaming kids in the evening, deafening motorcycles at 1:00 in the morning and almost nightly neighborhood fireworks from Memorial to Labor Day, it's all a part of summer.

Bring it on.