Saturday, September 22, 2007

A little follow-up

Wasn't it just yesterday that I wondered about our local weather forecast? Sure it was.
Sometimes, I think maybe I'm a little too rough on our local weather people. After all, they have high school diplomas and nice suits. Plus, there's all those fancy weather gadgets that the stations must pay a lot of money for. That's why their forecasts are so accurate. It's the combination of their extensive education combined with how nice they look and their ability to color maps so nicely.
Scroll down to Friday's post with the image of the NBC10 forecast. I don't know what they call it. The one on the ABC affiliate is called AccuWeather, like that's supposed to make it more trustworthy. Generally, they're all the same. Whatever it's called, they painted a pretty rosy picture for our weekend around here. That's why I was so surprised to wake up Saturday morning, expecting to prepare for our weekly 8am bike ride with the shop.
It was foggy, which isn't unusual, but there was something more than just the fog. The sidewalks were damp, which indicated that it may have rained recently. I don't have any fancy weather gadgets here in the condo, so I'll use my layman's knowledge to determine that wet sidewalks equals prior rainfall.
I bagged the ride for two reasons. One, riding through fog is like riding through a light rain. It isn't long before you're soaking wet. Two, it looked to me like there was more than just fog. Without fancy weather gadgets, I was at a distinct disadvantage. Or was I? By 9:30 it was raining pretty heavily.
By noon, the forecast had changed to "30% chance of showers", which was odd because (a) it is already raining and (b) is it really a forecast if it is for the same day?
It stopped raining later in the day, but now it's 1:15 and pouring rain. Again, I have no gadgets. They're saying "sunny" for Sunday, and we have another ride scheduled. I'll check the sidewalks.
Meanwhile, I think the weather people still cashed a paycheck this week.

The Blogging Hobby

This is a pretty strange hobby, the blogging. Maybe I'm not the only one who kept some sort of a diary when they were younger, but I would never let anyone near mine. It's as though I was writing down my thoughts and feelings for me, which is strange because I always know what my thoughts and feelings are.
I guess I thought I would leave it as some sort of historic marker or something because, after all, when I was 17 years old I thought I was going to amount to something. There was no way on God's Blue Earth that I was going to grow up and be - well - ordinary.
As time passed, I realized that not only would I grow up to be ordinary, I would also grow up having a stifled voice. That is, until now.
I'm still writing down my thoughts and feelings, but I don't hide the book anymore. I do sometimes hide what I am doing, though. Yesterday, a co-worker who reads it said something out loud about "reading it on your blog." Egad, woman - do you want everyone to know I'm doing this? To my knowledge, only two or three people at work follow the exploits here. Any more than that and I may have to start a new one under a pseudonym. Mind My Sick.
There is still that part of me that wants to hide the book, but the book is in the room, but unless you trip over it, you'd never know it was there. So I don't let people trip over it too often. I want them to feel like Internet Explorers and discover it on their own, without any help from me. It's part of the fun.
The other part is that - jeez - do I want to walk into work every day and have people squinting at me because I said that I wanted a soap container that dissolved in water? What're you looking at? I spend good chunks of my day avoiding most of them, so why on Earth would I want to draw them closer?
I printed up little business cards with the site address on them that I was going to leave randomly, to see who would come in. I think I've left maybe one. The business cards are hiding in the book.
All of which leaves me with why. Why do I do this? Why does an intensely personal person want the random Earth to read his innermost thoughts and feelings, but he won't tell the people he knows? Why do I even feel the need to write them down to begin with? Most people view writing like a root canal. "Do I have to?" Yes, and I have to post something every day, because I don't want people to think I'm dead. So, as a result of my weakness, you are forced to put up with a lot of crap - and this.
I woke up one morning and said, "It's a nice day. I wish I could put my life on the Internet." Then, a ghost appeared and said, "And so you shall!" There it was. Blogger. My prayers were answered by a faceless, nameless stranger. Thank you, masked man.
For those of you who read and write, have you thought about why you do it, or did it come about as easily as wearing shoes every day? Sometimes the shoes are a little tight, but sometimes we tie them too tight, you know? For those of you who read but don't - you know - don't ... Have you ever thought of doing it? Is it the writing part or the personal exposure part that keeps you from doing it? Or, as a great man once said, "Maybe you just don't wanna." That's a reason, too.
I don't know. All this inner light jazz is exhausting.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Weather or not

I just don’t know sometimes.
Are the local news stations so hungry for ratings that they will stoop to baiting us to watch? Yes, they are. So, I guess I do know, don’t I?
Thursday night, during The Office, local weather guy Glenn “Hurricane” Schwartz cajoled us into tuning in at 11 by saying, “See how the coastal storm will affect our weekend weather, tonight.”
Sure Glenn, I’ll hang around for another 3 hours and wait for you to guess. Let me run out and buy a lottery ticket too. I have the same chance of being right as you.
Rather than be suckered into watching stories about local fires, traffic tie-up’s and missing pets I decided to get some shuteye and allow the weather events to transpire as they will. Then, this morning I did what any right-thinking person would do when curious about something – I went to their web site. Here is how the coastal storm is going to affect our weather this weekend:

I guess the coastal storm is going to miss us, but those mid-80s temperatures and sunny skies sound like a real problem. I'm sure that when Glenn came on at 11 he said that "The coastal storm is not going to affect us, and I'm sorry I alarmed you earlier by implying that it would." That's what he probably said.

I pictured hundreds of people, waiting around for the weather forecast, wondering if their outdoor wedding was going to be ruined or their kid’s soccer game would be cancelled. Nope. Sun and clouds, just like a lot of other days. I can't imagine that treating your viewers like that is a good way to build a long-term audience.

Thanks Glenn. I hope you got a good night’s sleep, too.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Give us enough cable to hang ourselves

Recently, I was more or less forced into subscribing to digital cable. My old TV died and I bought an LCD set for a hundred dollars less than I paid for the old TV 11 years ago. It was an offer I couldn't refuse.
The upshot of the deal is that I am paying an extra 5 dollars a month for about a dozen hi-definition channels, which are part of some package that Comcast has put together to make my life more pleasurable. Thanks. Meanwhile, most of the hi-def channels are also available in regular-def, so I am paying for duplicate channels thatI will never watch. Is this making sense?
I guess it doesn't make sense to somebody else, too because now, a lawsuit is being filed in California that is seeking to require the cable companies to offer channels on an a la carte basis. The theory is that you would pay for what you want. So, most of us would opt out of the Spanish channels and shopping channels and whatever else we weren't interested in so that we could save a few bucks off our bill. For instance, I have no use for about 20 music channels that are buried in the 400s. If I want to listen to music, I'm not turning on the TV. I'm not sure what kind of person I would have to be to listen to music on my television, but I guarantee you it isn't the one I am now. So, dropping all of those needless channels will save me money, right? I'll bet you can already guess what will happen.
The cable company will increase the charges for the popular channels so that it will be fiscally impractical for us to dump the channels we don't watch. My bill is $65 a month. I'd be willing to bet the whole 65 bucks that if Comcast offered a la carte pricing, my bill would be $70. There are meetings going on right now. You betcha.

The antitrust laws protect the right of choice," antitrust lawyer Maxwell M. Blecher said. "Here the customer is denied that choice."
"The complex web of contractual arrangements among service providers and networks amounts to a monopoly or cartel that has "deprived consumers of choice, caused them to pay inflated prices for cable television and forced them to pay for cable channels they do not want and do not watch," Blecher wrote in the complaint filed on behalf of cable subscribers in several states.

Meanwhile, calls to the National Cable and Telecommunications Association, a trade group for the U.S. cable television industry, were not immediately returned. I'm thinking that the NCT isn't made up of the same type of people who make up that Soap group. It's just a feeling.
Blecher contends cable and satellite television subscribers should be able to pay only for the channels they actually want to watch. Oh, Belcher, you're so naive. I hope you're not working on a retainer, because you aren't going to make diddly-squat. Besides, even if you win, we lose.
Here's something fun to do: Let's check back to see if anyone from the National Cable and Telecommunications Association drops by and leaves a nice comment, like Brian did yesterday. I'll go double or nothing for the 65 bucks I bet on the other thing that they don't show.
They probably blog a la carte.

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

My two cents on soap and soap by-products

Yesterday, I got a page hit from The Soap and Detergent Association over that advice column for men in the bathroom.
I can imagine their External Relations department, doing their regular searches to see how the blogs are treating the gang and, fa-foomf! Up pops the blog. Twice now.
What a joy it must be for them to mingle amongst the Mr. Woodcock post and the Homer Simpson quotes. It's just the tip of the iceberg, SDA.
I didn't want to make it sound like I'm anti-soap. I use it almost every day. So, as a repeat user, I think you owe it to me to take my advice on soap. Consider this my open letter to the Soap and Detergent Association:
First, let's put some sort of industry-wide ban on putting soap in boxes and then wrapping the box in plastic. Once it's wrapped in plastic, the job is done. There is no need to wrap a box in plastic - especially if it's soap. We make enough trash. Let's try making less. Every little box is important.
While we're at it, can we get the supermarket owners to stop making their cashiers break open a separate plastic bag for the soap? The stuff is wrapped up like a tomb, sitting next to something else that is wrapped up like a tomb. What could happen? Save a bag.
I think you should make it a priority to develop and use a sealed container that dissolves when it is placed in water. Then, you'd have the perfect bio-degradable product. 0% post-consumer content. Less cardboard and plastic in landfills and a really nice green image for the people who make soap. I don't think it's the most difficult problem to solve, and it would make a keen TV ad.
I wish you could make the soap manufacturers come up with better names for the fragrances of their soap. How would I know what a Forest Stream smells like? Or an Early Morning Mist? It's probably the same guy who comes up with those Eddie Bauer colors. What in Hell is Russet, Dark Thyme and Taupe Heather? Whatever happened to white, green and red? But I digress.
And, by the way, I know that earlier this year, Procter & Gamble changed the shape of the soap bars and reduced the size by 11% (from 4.5 to 4.0 ounces). Did they reduce the price by 11%? I think not. Don't you have industry standards? It's bad enough that the thing shrinks up to a tiny soap blade, you don't need to make the bars smaller to start with. Get them to stop that.
And don't ever let them stop making Ivory soap. Every once in a while, we need to get back to something that has been used for generations. Life is complicated and getting more so every day. Things we take for granted are still relatively new. iPods, cell phones and DVD players are a hair's width on history's time line. Every once in a while, I like the old soap. Something that I know exactly what it is and I don't have to wonder if I'm going to be infested with some crap from China. Sometimes, I just want the plain white one.
That's all I have on soap. Detergent I couldn't care less about. Pick a tablet, throw it in, start the machine. Don't go changing.

Table for one

According to Yahoo, this week is National Singles Week. Seriously. It was made up in 1984 by some people in Ohio, of all places. Why couldn't I have found out about this on Monday when I could have enjoyed it? Maybe singles only deserve to know for half a week? Chances are, the single people in charge of this deal sat around for two days waiting for the phone to ring before finally giving in and calling the media. That sounds about right.
After the article, there's a list called The Ten Best Things About Being Single. I challenge.
1. You can make last-minute plans with your friends and stay out all night if you want. Sure, stay out all night and get left alone, drunk and tired with no ride home. And when you get home, there's no one there, which stinks because you do your best nasty business when you're legally intoxicated.
2. You can lie on both sides of your bed and have all the covers to yourself. Is that really important? Besides, if you sleep on a Twin bed, you're always on both sides.
3. You can flirt with the opposite sex without someone saying, "Who are you looking at?" That's usually what the opposite sex says.
4. You can make your own decisions. About which frozen meal you're eating over the sink or what to do on Valentine's Day, New Year's Eve or your birthday.
5. You don't have to remember your significant other's birthday or anniversary. And no one will remember yours, either. [See #4]
6. You have no one to clean up after. You're kidding, right?
7. You can leave the toilet seat permanently up if you're a man, or permanently down if you're a woman. TRANSLATION: No ass besides yours.
8. You can make a list of things you always wanted to do ... and actually do them. By yourself.
9. You can listen to your favorite radio station in the car. Because riding in silence is kind of psychotic. And the car gets better gas mileage because it's lighter than it would be with a woman in it.
10. You can actually hold on to the remote control. While you're "whacking it" with the other hand.
This sounds like one of those deals where people with some anti-social lifestyle convince themselves that being different is good. You had to really stretch to come up with 10 great things about being single. Cleaning up? I think they were done by number 5.
Different is OK, but I don't think we need to celebrate every half-assed National Week or anniversary. Some things don't beg to be acknowledged.
Singles get screwed on health insurance, pay more for hotel rooms and get that funny askance look when we arrive for things alone. Not to mention that we don't live as long as married people, but that may be torture for either of us, depending on the circumstances. As for me, accustomed is a word I would use to describe it, not happy - at least not most of the time.
So, Happy Singles [Half] Week - a contradiction in terms if I ever heard one.
* thanks to eddiemalone for the image.

My lawyer's feet smell like the erosion of my personal freedom

Those crazy attorneys over at Lord, Bissell & Brook must have a lot of spare time. One of my latest hits came from a Google search titled "Paula Creamer's feet" which, sadly for the searcher, turned up a post, aptly titled My cat's feet smell like cat litter, a paraphrase of a quote from Springfield's Ralph Wiggum.
The post had something to do with Don Imus and Beatles songs, with nary a mention of Ms. Creamer's pes, or anything above her Talus, either.
It got me to thinking [oh, that again] about all the crap that people must have to sift through to either (a) figure out that they hit a dry well and should just stop reading, or (b) continue to the end just in case there's some wacky reference from out of nowhere. Mostly, it's "a".
So, to all those poor souls who go out in search of those elusive Alycia Lane bikini pics, the Koreans who come here in search of the Big Ass and all my "no referring link" pals who wander over checking to see who has the World's Smallest Penis ... a haiku:

You came here looking
for a lot of different things.
Most of which ain't here.

You want to know who
has the World's smallest penis.
I hope it ain't you.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Employees must wash hands before reading the blog.

The gender gap has widened when it comes to hygiene, according to the latest stakeout by the "hand washing police." One-third of men didn't bother to wash after using the bathroom, compared with 12 percent of women, said the researchers who spy on people in public restrooms. They reported their latest findings Monday at a meeting of infectious disease scientists. Two years ago, the last time the survey was done, only one-quarter of men didn't wash, compared with 10 percent of women.
"Guys need to step up to the sink," said Brian Sansoni, spokesman for the Soap and Detergent Association, which co-sponsors the survey and related education campaigns
First, let's discuss the Soap and Detergent Association. What kind of ... never mind.
Next, let's discuss something patently gross and disgusting - men's bathroom habits. In addition to being one myself, I work with lots of them, and although I'm not a member of the force, I keenly observe. Let's start with the good old toilet, shall we?
Men. Make an effort to properly establish the relationship between the bowl and your urinating device, which scientifically is known as your Urinarian. Do not stand 2 feet from the bowl and expect every drop to go there. Move a little closer, so you don't leave that disgusting 5-part puddle on the floor for the rest of us to try to avoid stepping in. Remember, it's not a fire hose and it does not slam shut.
Make at least a half-hearted attempt to wipe the rim of the bowl. A few squares of paper gently circulated around the rim can spare others the disgusting remains of your day. So far, we have a clean floor and a clean bowl. That's a Hell of a start.
And while I'm here, can I ask a question? Why is it that several of you think that you are such a sharpshooter that you can run that stuff through the seat? Pick up the God damned seat, why don't-cha? It's physically impossible to urinate through a toilet seat and not leave the next guy with a wet ass. Penalty for being caught: You have to pee sitting down for a month.
Washing your hands, I'm not even going to debate. Soap, water and a paper towel. Take a minute from your busy day. "Paper towel" does not mean more than three. Guys tear these things off like they're drying their car or something. Your hands are wet, take one. I've counted as many as six. If you take more than two, you have to use them to wipe the seat, floor and bowl before you are allowed to leave the rest room.
Take these thoughts and learn them, my brethren. For the benefit of mankind, your fellow workers and the overall quality of life. They're little things. I'm not asking you to help me move furniture or anything. Just wipe up.
Don't make me beg.

Monday night and other things

Oh, the woeful display that the once sacred Monday Night Football has become. Now that Sunday night has replaced Monday as the "Football Night in America", the shell of its former self is now on broad display on ESPN whether we want it or not. Remember, the E stands for Entertainment. However, the S stands for sports, and that's the element that is often sorely lacking. What was Charles Barkley's purpose in the booth, other than trashing the Philadelphia sports fans? Get a grip, Chuck. And shut up, there's a football game going on.
I still say, and will continue to say, that Suzi Kolber belongs in the booth and Tony Kornheiser belongs on the field, or as far away from the booth as we can get him and still justify his paycheck. Either that or eliminate the third man fifth wheel in the booth altogether. The producers are still living off the history of Don Meredith and the fun he brought to the game. Meanwhile, viewers (and fans) have had to endure Dan Dierdorf, Dennis Miller and now, Kornheiser, a guy I've never learned anything from about sports.
Monday night's great Tony K insight came in the first quarter (why waste time) when Eagles placekicker David Akers lined up a field goal. "What is he, a hundred?", clueless Tony chimed in, forgetting that silence is also an expression. He was quickly corrected that it was Akers' ninth year in the league, making him a kid by kicker standards. Tony, if you don't have anything to say, then say it. That's a motto. Stop trying so hard to stand out and try blending in. It's a good career move. And while you're at it, stop picking on Philadelphia's sports fans. You harped on it with Barkley until I was ready to reach through the screen and grab a piece of your throat.
And then, supposedly as a bonus, Tony joins fellow nitwit Michael Wilbon for "PTI at the Half", as though we couldn't wait until tomorrow for their pearls of wisdom. Oy. You're not pardoned.

Speaking of television, I couldn't let the Prime Time Emmy Awards go by without a word or fifty. Remind me again who this guy was that won the Emmy for best actor in a comedy series. Remind me who watches this show, how many people have HBO to begin with, why HBO and other pay cable channels are involved in this at all and exactly who does the voting? Cable used to have their own awards show, The Cable Ace Awards, but I suppose that franchise was bought out by network TV, so now we have millions of people scratching their heads, wondering what Entourage is or thinking, "Maybe I'll rent The Sopranos' first season" or even [God forbid] wondering, "Who in Hell is Ricky Gervais?" Sorry Ricky, but you gotta know.

Speaking of football, there are a few things that bug me about the game. First is the strange touchdown rule. You can wave the ball over the line as you're running out of bounds, as long as the ball crosses the line, or you knock over that plastic pilon, and it's a touchdown. However, if you catch it in the end zone, you have to have both feet in bounds for it to be 6 points. What happened to that odd geometry "ball crosses the plane of the goal line" rule? Two feet=touchdown. No feet waving the ball=touchdown. One foot=fourth down.
The quarterback can legally spike the ball to stop the clock when his team is running out of time and time-outs. However, if he throws it forward without benefit of an eligible receiver, it's "intentional grounding", and a penalty with loss of down. Explain.
Then, there's the "Icing the kicker" timeout that always intrigues me. The kicker has been standing on the sidelines contemplating this life-altering kick for fifteen minutes. Finally, his time comes, presumably with the game on the line. The kicking team rushes out on the field. Time is running out and the pressure is on. What does the opposing coach do? He calls a time-out. Supposedly to make the kicker choke up and think about what he's about to do. I'm thinking that it gives the kicker a moment to relax and collect his thoughts, organize his players and execute the kick, but I'm strange that way. Last night, it gave the Redskins time to organize their offense, call a play and score a touchdown.
Both feet in.

Monday, September 17, 2007

This post is brought to you by Levi-Strauss

We're a strange bunch, we are. We give such high importance to such mundane things, and almost ignore the important ones. Such is the case with advertising.
During one of the football games yesterday, an ad for Wrangler came on, and there's old Brett Favre tossing a football around. He later goes on to tell us that he likes jeans. And we're supposed to buy them based on that. I already know what jeans are, and it won't influence me one way or another if a celebrity wears a certain brand. It may in fact, sometimes do the opposite.
Outside of his ability as a football player, Mr. Favre has no other distinguishing characteristics, like a worldly skill or anything. He excels at a game and earns a lot of money at it, so we're supposed to ascribe some intrinsic value to that, so it will make Wrangler jeans look like the jeans that influential people wear. I'd be more likely to accept the advice of a trusted friend or relative, but we can't get them on the TV.
I'm not trying to indict Brett here. His just happened to be the commercial I saw that started me to thinking. It could have been Ellen DeGeneres or Tiger Woods driving a Buick.
I wonder if companies can make a link between such a mundane everyday product as pants and any increase in sales from who is doing the advertising? Is it worth as much as you pay these people to do it for you? I'm guessing, a lot of times it's not. I'd bet you have to sell a Hell of a lot of Buicks to earn back what they must have paid Tiger for that deal. I figure, you drive a Buick because you want one, not necessarily because Tiger says so. I'd bet a lot of them couldn't pick Tiger out of a lineup.
It's got to be lucrative, though. Being a product spokesman is what keeps golfers in the bucks. When I met Christie Kerr's aunt at the LPGA tournament earlier this year, she told me that Christie made something like $300,000 in tournaments and a million total, including endorsements. Most of it from cosmetics and an insurance company. I suppose women might be willing to use Christie's eye liner, but I don't think I'd buy life insurance because she wears a company hat. What she makes is nothing compared to what Annika makes, or certainly Tiger or Phil Mickelson.
I'm sure a lot of kids bought those shoes that Michael Jordan pushed or Joe D's Mr. Coffee, but I'm not sure how much of a difference it makes with mundane products like jeans or food. You either like Chalupa's or you don't.
Maybe it's that I'm not as easily manipulated as some, or maybe I'm right and most of it is wasted money. I just don't think that everyday household products need big name spokesmen.
How about you, Internet blog readers. Do you purchase a product based on a celebrity spokes(person), or do you think it's a colossal waste of money that could otherwise be spent reducing the price?

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Sunday, what are you doing here?

PARIS - Arctic ice has shrunk to the lowest level on record, new satellite images show, raising the possibility that the Northwest Passage that eluded famous explorers will become an open shipping lane. With arctic ice levels at record lows, a long-sought route between Asia and Europe may emerge.
The official slant from the Bush administration will be: White House encourages trade. Take that, free market economy. Pretty soon, a new shipping lane may open up between Baltimore and Denver. Fresh crabs in Colorado! I can't wait for that one.
Then, there was this sickening headline: Ingrid fades to depression as damage from Humberto assessed. Poor Ingrid, and what did that bastard Humberto do to hurt her so? She was such a happy girl before he came into her life. The cad never as much as thanked her for everything she did. I got really worked up until I figured out what was going on. Stinking CNN.
If you don't know who Scott Matthews is, I wouldn't be surprised. You can read about him on the link, but you'd be better off just buying his new CD, Passing Strangers.
His music draws from all sorts of influences. There's a reggae feel on some, a blues feel on others, then he drops a bomb called Elusive on us and you find yourself going back to the other songs to see if they're as deep as that one. They are. Any time you hear a lyric like I'm in debt with pain. I can't bleed no more, you can figure the stuff is pretty deep.
You'll hear traces of McCartney, Jack Johnson and Chris Cornell. They're calling him the "British Jeff Buckley", but I don't know much about Jeff Buckley other than he's American, so you'll have to value that comment yourself.
Sometimes great music should just stand on its own, without having to be compared to anyone else. If you're looking for an example, I think you could start here.