Saturday, September 8, 2007

Pipe Dreams

I think I want to start growing marijuana in my house. I have lots of closet space, and I could empty one out and throw it to the Goodwill. It beats the crap out of growing some stupid plant that all you can do is look at or smell. This takes gardening to the next level. Hey, I can't grow corn or some other cash crop, so how many other choices does a condo dweller have?
Of course, I would need some equipment. One of those hydroponic deals with the giant thousand watt growing lights, and some seeds. Ya gotta have seeds. See, you didn't think I knew what I was talking about, did you?
The electric bills would kick my ass. And who's to say that a giant red flag wouldn't go up at the local power company when they looked at my usage.
"Um ... sir, I see that every month for the last twelve, your electric bill has been fifty-one dollars."
"Yeah, so?"
"Well, last month your bill was five-hundred and ten."
"Must be a misprint."
"Computers do it."
"Oh ... I um ... left the stereo on."
"Must be a really big stereo."
The biggest, baby. OK so, maybe I couldn't pull it off here in the condo cigar box but you know I don't have half the balls it takes to operate something like that. My nerves would be so frazzled I'd have to smoke dope to get over the migranes. And how could I know that the cat wouldn't eat the stuff all day? I don't know nothing 'bout growing anything so, I'd have to hire a Mexican to come in twice a week, and besides, it's hot enough up here already.
I'd be the jackass who would blurt out something incriminating, since I say whatever's on my mind. Some innocent comment:
"Man, that Sun is really bright today."
"I don't have any bulbs."
"Um ... for growing pot.
Dumbass. And the plants probably stink, too. Everybody in this building has a dog, and they'd be barking all day. And where do you even dry the stuff out? Hang it up, I bet. Like I could do that in this little place. Maybe if I rented one of those storage bins? They'd probably check. Then I'd have to sell it. Well ... some of it. Geez.
Oh, Hell. Thanks for walking this through with me. I guess it's back to the Heineken.

Friday, September 7, 2007

I hate those guys

"Who dropped a whole truckload of Fizzies into the swim meet? Who delivered the medical school cadavers to the alumni dinner? Every Halloween, the trees are filled with underwear. Every spring, the toilets explode."
- Dean Vernon Wormer
And every Thursday, this crap is in my mailbox.
I pull it out and toss it in the recycle bin. Do I look at it? No. Do I diligently cut out the coupons and use them for my weekly purchases? No. Do I sometimes miss actual mail because it is mixed in with this crap? Yes. Do I shop at any of the stores that pay to put this crap in my mailbox? Maybe, but if I do it is a total coincidence.
We have "Do not call" lists for phone solicitors - why can't we have "Do not send" lists for this kind of nonsense? I'm sure my local letter carrier would support such a measure, since his or her load would be lighter were it not for this junk that they infest my mailbox with each and every Thursday.
Am I alone here? I have regular readers in such faraway places as Ohio [round at the end ... never mind], sunny California, Georgia and (egad) Canada of all places. Do you put up with this nonsense, or is it just here in the Garden State? If my state legislators are listening (reading), maybe they can put away their anti-cell phone legislation for a minute and do something about this ecological disaster that infiltrates my home on a weekly basis.
It's time for somebody to put their foot down, and that foot is me.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

An ill wind blows no good

“But you don’t realize, that’s where I sail!”
- Senator Edward M. Kennedy (D-Mass)
Lately, I’ve been enjoying peaceful, quiet lunches at work. I pay to have our local newspaper delivered to my home, and if I take it to our cafeteria, I wind up reading and re-reading the same sentence and still don’t know what I read. So, rather than sit with a half dozen people with whom I share no common interests, I prefer to use that time to widen my horizons and [egad] learn something.
Regularly, the Inquirer runs editorial essays by Froma Harrop. They are always insightful and interesting. The one they ran on Wednesday was particularly so. It concerned the ongoing battle over offshore wind farms in Nantucket Sound in Massachusetts, where Teddy says he sails.
I’m going to bypass all of the political wrangling that has gone on and the historical perspective that Froma brings to the debate. What I prefer to focus on is the short-sightedness of politicians and their lack of perspective, both of which work toward the same dead end.
Kennedy is 73 years old. He is closer to the end of his sailing days than the beginning. What he and many of his contemporaries fail to realize is that their time here is short by global standards. They see any invasion of their pristine environment as an inconvenience, when they should be more concerned with everyone’s pristine environment. They are so concerned with the quality of their life that they have forgotten that they are supposed to be concerned with more than their little world.
It’s sad that part of our society has become so power hungry and possession obsessed that they have lost sight of the big picture – and even sadder that it’s the part that makes the rules. Regardless of whether or not you buy into the global warming argument, it behooves each of us to take care of this beautiful world that we have been privileged to inherit, regardless of whether or not we own a sailboat.
In the big picture, we don’t give a damn where you sail, Ted, or what you can or cannot see when you look out the window of your too-big home. For the record, you’d have to squint and have a clear sky to be able to see the proposed wind farm from Nantucket. There's a map here and an article here that show the distance from Ted's boat and his proabably failing eyesight.
There is a wind farm just outside of Atlantic City, New Jersey [photo left] and every time I drive past it I think it’s a beautiful sight. I slow down a little so I can watch those huge turbine blades spinning. To me they say that we are smart enough to use something that is free to make something that people can use. We don’t have to drill a hole in the ground, go to war or pay a fee to make it, and if they decided to build one next door to my home, I’d chip in and help the groundbreaking. Maybe someday we’ll figure out how to use the Sun as profitably.
Fools like Ted Kennedy and the people who support him have lost sight of the big picture. Their little world is collapsing around them, and all the money in the world can’t repair a damaged Earth. Speaking of which, you don't think that there could be the old "follow the money" deal going on here, do you? [he asked sarcastically]
So Ted, as far as I’m concerned, you can go fly a kite. There’s plenty of wind in Nantucket for that, too.

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Philosophy corner

Tires are a pretty good metaphor for life.
Around and around they go, helping us move from one place to another, sometimes for a purpose, and other times just aimlessly wandering about, just like us.
The thing that is consistent is wear. It is gradual and barely noticeable, but the tire wears away. When they are new, they are bold and sharp-edged and they look good rolling around. Eventually, they don’t look as nice as the new ones, unless they stay with their own group. It's hard to notice until they are placed next to new tires, then they suddenly look old and withered.
Filled with air they roll along effortlessly, but they are vulnerable to hazards. Anything big will puncture it, and stop it – literally – in its tracks. If it isn’t too big a tear, it can be repaired, and it’s back on the road. The big ones will destroy it.
You can’t do much with just one tire. Unless you possess a special skill, it takes at least two to make something move, because they work more efficiently with another matching tire by their side. Tires need companions.
One day, you look and discover that the tread is gone and the tire has worn to the point that it is no longer useful. Gradually, over the course of time, it will go from being a productive member of a group to an encumbrance, and it will soon be replaced by a new one. The process is unending.
Tires can be made to last longer if they are not used but they will decay and perish from age. They will have lived longer, but their life is meaningless. They are made to move. One way or another, they will wear away. It’s unstoppable. Time is their enemy.
Just like us.
I need new tires.


Where does rubber go
when it wears off the tires?
It just disappears.

It happens slowly,
and you cannot put it back.
Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

They'll love this in France

I will pander. Just so you'll know. Occasionally, an opportunity to pander presents itself and I am all to happy to oblige. I know that people are busy and their Internet searches for Alycia Lane's bikini photos have gone unsatisfied. Believe me, if I had them, you'd be the first to know.
As irrelevant television programs go, the Jerry Lewis Labor Day Telethon has jumped so many sharks that even Fonzie on a Harley couldn't get over them. What does it take to bring something to the forefront of public attention? A little slur.
Jerry dropped the "F" bomb on Monday, while most of America was either watching golf, tennis or each other. Somehow, the telethon raised $64 million, but one wonders how many of those checks will be received now that Jerry has offended 10% of the population.
OK, here's the pandering part.

Quiet, please!

There are a couple of sports that I enjoy watching on television, but don’t play – golf and tennis. Both were on this weekend, and as usual, they left me with more than a few questions about what in Hell is going on.
The intrigue at the Deutsche Bank Championship in Massachusetts on Monday centered on the battle between Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. At one point, Michelson was 5 strokes ahead with about half a round left. The commentators (Johnny Miller and Jim Nance) anointed Phil the champion and started talking about his win in the past tense. Pack up the clubs, Tiger. You have officially been pronounced dead.
Those of us with healthy skepticism knew that Phil is rather famous for coughing up leads and making stupid, ill-advised shots when all he needs to do is lay up and keep playing. The best player in the world still had 10 holes left, but the TV guys felt like they had to be the first to tell us who had won – before it happened.
The golf course is a quiet, almost pastoral setting and any little disruption in the peace causes players to panic. At one point, the wind started swirling and Tiger stepped back from a shot. The commentator said that “He likes to control his world, and he hates the swirling wind.” Lighten up, Tiger. If you think you can control the wind, maybe golf is a little beneath your abilities.
Later, both players rolled in dramatic birdie putts, which made Miller proclaim, “If you don’t like that, go watch tennis!” I took his advice.
They’re playing the U.S. Open in Queens and much like the golf course, you are asked to be quiet at the tennis court, too. Here, a guy with a microphone announces “Quiet, please” if the crowd is overly supportive before a player serves. At one point, a couple and their baby had the unmitigated gall to get up from their seat and walk out while the match was going on. This elicited boos from the crowd, since standing up and moving (no matter how far you are from the court) is verboten. I’m pretty sure the player couldn’t see it.
Then, there’s the noise issue. Players grunt and scream on almost every shot. One player grunts a second after he hits the ball. However, if the crowd screams, they are told to be quiet. I think the players are more distracting than the audience, and I’m waiting for the day when one of the players asks another to be “quiet, please.”
Roger Federer should try hitting a John Smoltz curve ball with people screaming in his ear and fans walking around behind him. Golf and tennis take themselves too seriously sometimes. Could James Blake serve if a wave suddenly broke out at Arthur Ashe stadium? Smoltz can still pitch.
To paraphrase Sergeant Hulka, “Lighten up, tennis.” There’s a minor battle of wills going on between fans and authority. The authority will win, because it ultimately does, but society is increasingly distracted with cell phones and other devices. We sing along at concerts and now more than ever ordinary people are TV stars. Videots, Rich Hall used to call them - the people who insist on being part of the show by waving or screaming. Golf and tennis will resist, but as older fans die and younger ones enter, the battle will heat up.
The players look aggravated. I don't think I'd want to piss off a guy who can serve a tennis ball 130mph. You'll be crapping fuzz for months.

Monday, September 3, 2007

The Interview

I volunteered to be interview by Kimmyk. I like being asked questions, and I find that most people have boundaries concerning what they will or won't ask. I have no such boundaries, and I have yet to find a way to encourage the people in my personal life to ask the questions that they must be dying to ask of me. Generally, I pose my own questions to myself here on the blog - and answer them. It's nice to be asked for a change.
1-Describe a smell from your childhood and why it's so important.
I had a pretty smelly childhood. Everything from mimeograph ink to sour milk and my father's carpet and tile glue that he would come home with.
The one I have the best memories of is the smell of paste. I don't even know if kids use it now, but it used to come in a white jar with a brush. It was like wallpaper paste, but it had a cow on the jar. From 1964 to 1969 I kept scrapbooks of Phillies games. I'd cut out the box score, pictures, story and the standings from the newspaper every night and make up a page of each game. I had these big 16-inch square pages and each day was a new page. I can still smell the paste and the old newspaper as I positioned each day's events, trying to make it all fit on one page. And yes, I still have the scrapbooks.
2-What is your biggest character flaw?
I think it's my lack of motivation to achieve that which I am capable. I have conflicting emotions regarding getting the most out of myself and the futility of life in general. I could push hard, but my inner voice says, "What's the point?" I don't feel that great motivating force to push me toward greatness. I seem to be content with being ordinary, and that isn't getting me anywhere. I was a pretty good musician, but lacked the desire to live in poverty while I pursued my goal. I think I'm a pretty good writer, but I don't know if I have the desire to develop the skill and sell myself. I tend to wait while others discover my talents rather than pushing them on people. Generally, people are more interested in making themselves look good rather than encouraging someone else, so it's a battle of wills that I will ultimately lose. I need to push. I need a Muse.
3-You're big on music-what kind of music was played in your house growing up?
The worst kind. My mom was deeply into Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones and these pianists named Ferrante and Teicher. Sinatra was okay, but that light piano music almost drove me to eat paste. It's elevator music in your home. Dad was into country music. I remember LPs by Ferlin Husky and Buck Owens polluting our stereo. Fortunately, I'm an independent thinker, and I developed my own tastes once The Beatles showed up. I always wondered how my contemporaries became Carpenter's or Barry Manilow fans. I chalked it up to accepting what you are given, rather than searching out your own taste. It's probably more complicated than that, but I had that rebellious streak that made me go after the opposites. I just never figured out how a 16-year old could like Barry Manilow. That's grandpa music, for when your ears can't distinguish low and high tones and you are attracted to mid-ranges and bad piano playing.
4-You get a Ferris Bueller's Day Off sort of a day - what would you do?
I do just about the same thing Ferris did. I wander into the city (Philadelphia instead of Chicago) and poke around. I take the train or bus into the city (I never drive) and hit a local (cheap) restaurant for lunch. If there's a concert, I'll go, or I might take my camera and search for something interesting. I like the orchestra or one of the small clubs like Tin Angel, Electric Factory or the TLA on South Street. I have this weird thing where I'll go to concerts by myself, but not movies. I think it's because a concert is a one-time event, and if I miss it, it's gone. Movies I can watch anytime.
5-Describe yourself with one word.
These are the rules. [I hate rules, but there are always rules]:
1) Leave me a comment saying "interview me" along with your e-mail address.
2) I will respond by emailing you five questions. I get to pick the questions.
3) You will update your blog with a post containing your answers to the questions.
4) You will include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the same post.
5) When others comment asking to be interviewed you will ask them five questions.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Another Sunday in paradise

Once the local news got through with their "human interest" stories about what's going on for the Labor Day weekend - picnics, the Jersey shore and outdoor activities (ground-breaking stuff) - they actually stumbled onto something interesting, believe it or not.
Some people in Philadelphia were among the first to test drive the Smartcar. What's a Smartcar? It's actually a subsidiary of Mercedes and they've been selling them around the world for a while. Starting in the first half of 2008, they'll be available here in the USA.
The smart fortwo pure will start under $12,000, the smart fortwo passion coupe will start under $14,000 and the smart fortwo passion cabrio will start under $17,000. The vehicle is designed to achieve 40 plus mpg under normal driving conditions and current standards. The gas tank of the smart fortwo is 8.7 gallons.
It looks a bit odd, but then, new things often do. Remember when we made fun of Hyundai's? It looks like an ideal vehicle for cities where space is at a premium. With a top speed of 90mph, it may be a bit slew-footed for life in the suburbs, but maybe kids will start driving them? I'm not sure I'd like to be side-by-side on the highway next to a Yukon or some big Mack, though. It still runs on gas, and the mileage isn't spectacular, but when they get to a hybrid, let me know.
Monday is Labor Day, and unless you work for government, big industry or a utility you are probably working. Almost everything, including my municipal-run fitness center is open, and the list of things that are closed is likely shorter. I'm getting a lot of blog hits for my little rant last year over the holiday oddity, and of course, nothing has changed. I think it's time we had a real National holiday, and not these Legal holidays that allow businesses to be open at their discretion. Would America suffer so greatly if we couldn't get to the mall on Monday?
Generally, people at the lower end of the pay scale are the ones who wind up working on Monday. Maybe they get holiday pay, but how many of them would just as soon have a day off once in a while? The difference between time and a half and a paid holiday is only the "half", and much of that gets eaten in taxes. Wouldn't you like to sit around and sip beer at a picnic rather than schlep sandwiches or ring up discounted pants?
The Phillies, one of life's great mysteries, went down to Florida and lost 2 of three after sweeping a four-game series against the first place Mets. They're hard to figure, and I guess they'll take us right down to the wire again this year - as they have every year for the past 4 - only to [maybe] cough it up in the last few days. The Eastern division is winnable, but not if you're going to lose to clowns like the Marlin. By the way, Marlin is plural, and I refuse to call them the Marlins, regardless of what their uniforms say.
Have a nice Labor Day, readers. I hope you aren't working.