Thursday, April 3, 2008

My Sick Weekend

You may not be hearing from me for a couple of days. Check the obituaries, because I'm venturing out to the big city. Not Philadelphia - New York, which, next to Tokyo is the really big city.
Here's the rundown of my next two days (or so):
Friday: Pick up my friend and take him to New York City, where we are to see a Yankees game on Friday night with 11 of his best friends as a celebration of his pending nuptials. The civilized among us call this a "Bachelor Party". The game should be over by 10:30, at which time we will venture back to the city to do [God knows what] and retire to the Roosevelt Hotel where [thank God] I will collapse in a heap in whatever BAC I am in at the time. I'm guessing 20%. For $135 a person, I figure I can be near death and still make it out for check-out time. That's the goal.
Saturday: I check out, they drive my friend back to Philadelphia, where I will [eventually] meet them for dinner at the City Tavern, a fine establishment in a high-rent district of the city that will undoubtedly regret making our reservations. At least that's the plan.
The upshot of all this is that it is going to rain almost continuously from now until Saturday morning, virtually wiping out the weekend in New York (already paid for) and maybe the Saturday in Philly (not my problem, since I live here).
Yours truly (me) will be under some amount of stress, since it is my responsibility to transport said (future former) bachelor to New York. Fortunately for him, I'm not responsible for his return trip, which will come after a good night's [pass out] sleep and the forced exit [check out].
Saturday night: I meet up with the travelers for dinner at City Tavern, which, I fear, is ill-equipped to deal with a dozen men. in varied states of masculine [something]. What I fear (as the elder statesman) is that the party will migrate to the city's strip clubs. Seriously, I have spent enough money in these places in my younger years to make me (a) cynical of their existence and (b) desirous of a good night's sleep in lieu of the hundred or so dollars I will spend in a girl's crotch that will not be sharing the night with mine. If I have my wits about me [doubtful], I will bid goodnight to the revelers shortly after dinner.
So, you may not be hearing from me for 36 hours or so. However, once I dry out (inside and outside) I'll be back to the regular nonsense to which you have become accustomed.
Say a little prayer to [whichever] God you pray to that I don't wind up on a police blotter or some Internet site. New York City is a big place. Philadelphia is smaller, but no less identifiable, so, put that profile picture in your mind's eye and deny seeing it.
Meanwhile, the weather forecast holds rain for the weekend, putting the Yankees game at risk. Pity, since the room is already paid for and my obligation already obligated.
The world's an imperfect place.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

It's the extra day that makes it special.

It was April 1, 2006. The first My Sick Mind post. I probably should have celebrated my Blogiversary yesterday, but I'm kinda strange. I think it was in memory of the last birthday that I had when I was married - 1994. Can I hold a grudge or what?
It was a Sunday. Those of you savants or calendar freaks can look it up. I'm not a big birthday guy, mostly because I don't have the people around to celebrate, but when you're married, you figure that there'd be at least some acknowledgement.
I remember getting up in the morning and waiting. You know that waiting. The waiting that you're figuring is going to have some little surprise at the end. Like when you watch the TV and they're picking the lottery numbers. But, like the lottery, the numbers wouldn't come out.
The in-laws showed up with a little gift. They were on their way to one of their camping trips and stopped by to let me know that it should be a happy birthday. I don't remember what the gift was, but it doesn't matter. They stopped by on their way to someplace.
For the record, the parents always liked me more than their daughters. I suppose it's because I always had a job, called them by Mister and Missus and knocked before entering ... junk like that. The daughters wanted the danger and the parents wanted the security. It's a conflict that is never resolved to my satisfaction. But I digress.
I continued waiting. Once a few hours passed, I figured the waiting was fruitless and I abandoned it in lieu of a more stimulating activity. No, not that. I think I went to the gym. Get your mind out of the gutter.
When I returned, I figured there would be something waiting for me. Still waiting, because I'm funny that way. I think everybody remembers, especially when she's my wife. But once it started to get dark and there was nary a mention of my 38th birthday (I was 37 years old, but it was my 38th birthday - you figure it out), even my most optimistic side became dark and brooding. That'll happen to the best of us.
The day (and night) passed without a mention of the day. I began to question myself. Is today really the 16th of October? I checked the calendar, because I'm not always that sure. Yep. We had been together since 1988, and every year since, the day had failed to pass without something extra special, but that day was an exception.
The following day, when I got home from work, there was a small wrapped box waiting for me when I got home. Surprise! You're 37 and a day. Inside was an Eagles T-shirt, that I had reasoned was the first thing she saw upon entering the K-Mart. I put it back in the box and went on about my day.
On May 11, 1995 - when she was 33 and a day, I gave her an equally nonchalant gift, because I'm funny that way. I can't remember what it was, which is fitting because I didn't put much thought into it.
So, in honor of that auspicious occasion, which placed a period on the sentence that was my marriage, I celebrate April 2, 2008 as the 2 year and a day anniversary of this little social experiment.
Thanks for reading it. Don't buy me anything.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

How's your gas?

"We have met the enemy, and he is us."
- Pogo
So, you think gasoline prices are high now? Well, they are, but they're just about the same price they were in June of 2006, when I wrote about the greedy oil companies. That's when oil company executives were busy defending their record profits. Sound familiar? How about April of 2006? They were high then, too. I'm seeing a trend.
WASHINGTON - Don't blame us, oil industry chiefs told a skeptical Congress. Top executives of the country's five biggest oil companies said Tuesday they know record fuel prices are hurting people, but they argued it's not their fault and their huge profits are in line with other industries.
Appearing before a House committee, the executives were pressed to explain why they should continue to get billions of dollars in tax breaks when they made $123 billion last year and motorists are paying record gasoline prices at the pump.
"On April Fool's Day, the biggest joke of all is being played on American families by Big Oil," Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass., said, aiming his remarks at the five executives sitting shoulder-to-shoulder in a congressional hearing room.
"Our earnings, although high in absolute terms, need to be viewed in the context of the scale and cyclical, long-term nature of our industry as well as the huge investment requirements," said J.S. Simon, senior vice president of Exxon Mobil Corp., which made a record $40 billion last year.
"We depend on high earnings during the up cycle to sustain ... investment over the long term, including the down cycles," he continued.
The up cycle has been going on too long, suggested Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo. "The anger level is rising significantly."
Ya gotta love those "up-cycles" don't ya? Meanwhile, consumers are griping over the very thing that they bought into over the last decade - the proliferation of the giant, gas-eating vehicle.
A co-worker told me that her last fill-up cost her $71.50. At $2.97 a gallon, that's a little over 24 gallons. That would be great if the SUV she was filling got high enough gas mileage so that the seventy-one bucks wasn't a weekly event, but we all know better.
There are few sights on the road sorrier than a single driver in a giant vehicle, clogging the road and creating financial hardship for themselves. A big empty space on the inside just being moved around for nothing. I wish they'd ask themselves how many times they really use the vehicle for its intended purpose. I think the answer would come back: Not nearly enough to justify 70 bucks a week in gasoline. Even the auto makers know they have us over a barrel.
A recent TV ad for one of those Range Rovers literally tells us that most of us will never use the technology that they build into the vehicle, but they do it for the select few who do. That's fine for the select few, but tell me how a guy driving to work every day on the highway needs an "off road package" or giant springs, shocks and tires that waste expensive gasoline.
Mostly, it's because people were sold these vehicles and told they were safer, when in fact, they're just bigger, which gives people the illusion of being safe. Chances are, almost all of us could get along just fine with a 4-door sensible compact car. If you find yourself "needing" a Range Rover, you might want to ask yourself why you're out driving in the first place.
And I didn't even mention the people who buy those 8-cylinder sports cars that require premium gasoline. Well, I just did. They're part of the problem, too and everything that I said about the SUV drivers applies to them as well.
We're neck-deep in this now, and there doesn't seem to be a solution other than complaining about stuff that we bought with our own money and free will. The oil companies are beating us, but we've also been busy beating ourselves.

Monday, March 31, 2008

It's driving me nuts.

MURRIETA, California - When the light starts to flash, you had better have the cash. That's the reality for millions of subprime borrowers whose used car purchase is contingent upon having an unusual option: a little box mounted underneath the dashboard that forces them to make their payments on time. A light on the plastic box flashes when a payment is due. If the payment isn't made and the resulting code punched in to reset the box, the vehicle won't start. The next step is a visit from the repo man.
Finally, somebody is using their head. There are already devices to keep drunks from starting a car, now this. Next, let's build an insulated car that keeps cell phone signals out. It's beyond ridiculous now with the phones. Who are these people talking to? I see them leaving their driveways on the phone. Couldn't they make the call from the house? How did we ever survive without being able to chat while driving? My life was so empty 15 years ago.
There are anti cell phone laws in many states, and California is about to be the sixth state to enact a law requiring a hands-free device on July 1, but it's more strict if you're a kid ...
Q: Am I allowed to use my wireless telephone hands free?
A: No. Drivers under the age of 18 may not use a wireless telephone, pager, laptop or any other electronic communication or mobile services device to speak or text while driving in any manner, even hands free. Exception: Permitted in emergency situations to call police, fire or medical authorities.
But not everyone sees it the same way, which is what makes the states united, sort of. A bill was passed in the Maryland state senate last month, but died in the House Environmental Matters Committee, who apparently thinks it doesn't Matter. It seems that people from Maryland are able to drive and yak on the phone, but people in New Jersey and California cannot. They're so much better than us.
Driving in Nova Scotia is difficult on several levels...
The Nova Scotia government made an amendment to the Smoke-free Places Act making it illegal to smoke in a motor vehicle while a child under 19 years of age is present. “This legislation is another important step in protecting the health of all Nova Scotians,” declares Health Promotion and Protection Minister Barry Barnet. “Children and young people are susceptible to the effects of second-hand smoke, especially in an enclosed space such as a car. ”The fine for smoking in a car with children present is $394.50, says Corp. Kendall.
New Jersey tried that "no smoking" deal a while ago. Merely bringing it up created such a furor that it was quickly tabled. So, they passed a ban on cell phone usage that made it illegal to use a cell phone while driving. What it did was make criminals out of thousands of drivers who now are seen talking, driving and scanning the horizon for the police. It's distracted driving taken to the highest degree. The law that is supposed to make us all safer has created a race of drivers who have the added distraction of looking for the police. Am I the only one who finds that odd?
It has been said that driving is a privilege. If that is true, then the privilege extends to cup holders, smoking, using a cellular phone, radar detectors, tinted windows and GPS devices. How can a law ban cell phone usage and not those GPS devices stuck to the front window? Can you drive and (more importantly) pay attention while you're staring at a 3-inch screen telling you where to turn? It seems that the more laws are passed to prohibit distractions, the more distractions there are. Why not allow DVD players in the steering wheel? If we're going to be soft on driving, why do it half-assed?
Researchers conclude that requiring U.S. motorists to use hands-free devices while talking on their cell phones won't necessarily improve their driving. The mental distractions caused by yakking is increasingly seen as a greater handicap to safe driving than having only one hand on the steering wheel. There is a common misconception that hands-free phones are safer when the research clearly suggests that they they're both equally risky, said Arthur Goodwin, a researcher at the University of North Carolina Highway Safety Research Center.
Goodwin told the Los Angeles Times the phenomenon of cognitive capture occurs while drivers are engrossed in a conversation and causes them to be less aware of what is going on around them.
Try to explain cognitive capture to the driver who is mindlessly yakking to someone on the phone. They'll tell you that they pay a lot of money for the phone and they'll damned well use it where they please, and if we don't like it, we can go pound sand.
Automobiles stopped being transportation devices a long time ago. They're rolling entertainment centers. It's not enough that we're going someplace, we have to get there in the ultimate comfort - like a little rolling living room. Reclining heated seats, a heated steering wheel, 2 cup holders per seat (how much can we drink?), satellite radio, DVD players in the back seat for our ADD kids, headphone jacks for their iPods, a thermometer to tell us how hot or cold it is outside - supposedly to make us feel better about being in the car. With all the junk the auto makers put in to pamper us, we still feel like talking to people on the phone. Some folks are just never happy.
It's gotten so bad that we have to make laws to prohibit the very behavior that we are being told we deserve. Figure that out in your spare time.
It's getting to the point where we'll need a designated driver even if we're not drunk.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Davidson? Who?

Between the soy milk and the orange juice lies the heart of an idiot. Blithering Idiot, the fine Barley-Wine Style Ale produced by the Weyerbacher Company of Easton, PA. I'd better hurry and finish this post before I'm a reflection of the container. 11.1% ABV ya know.
Meanwhile, here's some info on Davidson College for those of you who had them in your ... ahem ... Bracket Pool ...

Davidson College is a liberal arts institution founded in 1837 by ministers of the Concord Presbytery. Its 1,700 students come from almost every state in the nation and many foreign countries. A highly selective admission process brings students who are proven scholars and leaders to a close campus community in the small town of Davidson, North Carolina.

There it is, just north of Charlotte and west of Kannapolis, North Carolina - hotbed of college basketball and hometown of Dale Earnhardt. They'll have to know how to get back home, now that their Final Four (not really final) hopes have been dashed by the Jayhawks. The Jayhawks' win in the Midwest Regional final sent all four No. 1 seeds to the Final Four for the first time. Nitwits all over America are going to win money on their "Bracket Pools" merely because they picked the "ones" to go to the finals. Spend it wisely. Your taxes are due in two weeks.