Saturday, June 14, 2008

A little humor

Brian Regan

A quick one while I'm away.

The Who
A Quick One While He's Away
from the "Rock and Roll Circus" - 1968.
Introduced by a 40-year younger Keith Richards

Friday, June 13, 2008

Random junk to fill your dreary Saturday.

I'm off to Connecticut to see The Dave Matthews Band (again), so I'll try to entertain you for a while until I return sometime Sunday afternoon. I don't know what the gas prices are in Hartford, but I'm sure to find out. I filled up the tank on Friday, but the 250 mile trip will make it necessary to fill it up before I get home, which adds another 50 bucks to the trip.
I have this weird thing about cleaning up the car when I go on a little trip. Friday night, I stopped and hosed it down and cleaned the windows and - most of all - checked the air in the tires. Since I had my oil changed at one of those big chain lube joints, I figured that the air pressure would be good. As it turns out, the big chain lube joints use those worthless pencil air pressure gauges that are as worthless as tits on a bull. The tires were grossly over-inflated, so I'll have to wait until Saturday morning to adjust them because (as everyone knows) you don't bleed air from hot tires. You knew that, right?
Politeness Man lost his title for a bit on the drive home on Friday. He was trailing a driver going 40mph in the left lane, when he should have been going much faster. When he went right to pass, he saw that the driver was on his cell phone, which encouraged Politeness Man to yell out his second-favorite phrase, "Get off the phone!" Cell phone driver started blowing his horn and extended the middle finger to Politeness Man, who returned the favor. It's a strange world.
I'm watching a bit of the (Men's) U.S. Open and missing the girls. The galleries at the men's tournaments are much more boisterous than the ones at the women's tournaments. I think it has something to do with testosterone. Sadly, I only get to see the LPGA once a year when they come to Bulle Rock, and my time has passed. Fortunately, they play the U.S. (Women's) Open 75 miles from home next year, so I'll get to see them twice, once in June and again in July. My life will rock for six weeks - provided I'm still alive.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Another question from our Superhero.

I was talking to a co-worker today about movies, and movie theaters. One that I recommended, she had never been to, and asked, "Is it clean?" Clean for a movie theater, I guess. Then, the thought occurred midway through that I never understood the way people leave their trash on the floor at the movies. They take in a bag of popcorn and some over-priced beverage, finish it during the film and then leave the trash on the floor for a kid with a plastic bag to pick up when the movie is over. I never figured out how that became the custom, and immediately reasoned that it's because the theater is dark and they can leave junk without anyone knowing exactly who left it.
Then I realized that people do the same thing at baseball games. After the game, the stands are literally littered with trash, presumably for some stadium employee to pick up after the fans are gone. Mostly, it's brightly lit, so the darkness argument doesn't stand.
That leaves me with the same puzzlement over the slovenly behavior that I started with. It isn't the anonymity of the darkness, so maybe it's the idea that we're all strangers and leaving our trash behind doesn't reflect on us personally because no one knows who we are - except our companion (if there is one) who wouldn't dare call us a slob and ask, "If I came to your house to watch a movie and left the empty popcorn bag, napkin and soda can on the floor of your living room, would you be happy about it?"
Politeness Man is too self-aware and concerned with the comfort of others to leave trash on the floor no matter where he is. He picks up after himself when he is out because he treats the earth the way he expects people to treat his home - with respect. He doesn't understand how people can be so inconsiderate that they just leave their discarded junk on the floor for somebody else to pick up. He believes that these are the same people who yell at their kids to pick up their toys and clean their room because it looks like a pig sty.
Humans are strange.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Of cellular phones and the joy of driving.

I've gotten quite adept at yelling, "Get off the phone!" to drivers who appear undeterred by the fact that it's illegal in New Jersey to drive while using a cellular phone. The law that passed in February has been a miserable failure. Drivers know that there aren't enough police to police the law, so they have continued their behavior, and as it is with most laws, the people who are most affected are the ones who respected the idea to begin with. Such is life.
I screamed it at a neighbor who was yakking while waiting at the intersection as I was coming back from a bike commute. She was a hundred feet from home, yet found it necessary to call someone while she was driving. She said something back, but due to the Doppler effect, her whiny tone was lost to science, and thankfully I have no idea what lame excuse she yelled out the window.
Since gasoline is reaching 4 dollars a gallon in the area, there was an article in the Philadelphia Inquirer today telling us that people are buying Vespa scooters at a record rate. They cost about $4,000 and get 72 miles per gallon. The chief reason, we are led to believe, is that it costs about $7 to fill the tank. Several drivers interviewed for the story said it, and it leads me to believe that people (once again) are doing the right thing for the wrong reasons.
It doesn't matter what it costs to "fill the tank" if the tank is less than 2 gallons. What matters is that it's a conservation measure, which is in there somewhere in the convoluted logic that drivers use. Waste isn't a relative measure. If something is wasteful at 4 dollars it was wasteful at two. Driving a giant vehicle with one person inside is wasteful no matter what it costs to fuel it.
The auto makers sold the public on the idea that giant vehicles were somehow "safer" than the rest. The fact is that they are safer compared to the smaller cars, but how safe are they if they are involved in an accident with another giant vehicle? Probably not so much. In America, being bigger is perceived as being better but it ain't necessarily so.
Now, we have reached the tipping point and drivers are starting to understand that their self-indulgent world is crashing down around them. Like the 300-pound man who suddenly realizes that he "has to do something about my weight", drivers are realizing that it's ridiculous to drive a vehicle that can move 8 people when they are almost always moving one.
What made them realize it is the pocketbook hit that their lifestyle has taken as a result of spending $100 to fill their gas tank, which generally only gets them 200 miles or so.
The newly-acquired Vespa riders are the people who didn't need the giant vehicles to begin with, and were sold on the safety factor and the idea that the big tires and 4-wheel drive was a good idea, even though they used it about three days a year. They were duped, but were at least intelligent enough to realize the problem and have taken steps to correct it.
The real issue comes with the people who are still clogging the road and driving like maniacs. Here's a little experiment you can try: Set your cruise control at a few miles over the posted speed limit and see how many cars you pass. The answer: Almost none. I do it every day and I end up being tailgated and passed like a NASCAR driver a lap down almost all the time. It tells me that the general public (i.e. The Masses of Asses) have yet to discover the joy of driving and are still in a mad dash to get where they are going ahead of the rest of the world so that they can be the first to complain about the high cost of gasoline and how much it costs to get to where they are going.
I need to move.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Blaming the blameless.

We're big on blame. We love to find out who is to blame for something that sometimes is beyond anyone's control or impossible to explain. That doesn't stop us from trying to assign blame because that's what we love.
Find a human tragedy and you will find a person to blame. Find a product at fault and you will find a corporation to blame, whether or not the humans involved partook of the substance of their own free will.
People smoke cigarettes and sue the tobacco companies for selling them. People eat too much and sue the food producers for making them fat. It's generally someone else's fault and rarely do we take responsibility for our own actions. It's especially true when there are large sums of money on the line, as there was Saturday during the Belmont Stakes.
NEW YORK - Trainer Rick Dutrow Jr. still blames jockey Kent Desormeaux for Big Brown's stunning last-place finish in the Belmont Stakes. "I don't want to hurt anyone, especially Kent," [but he will anyway] Dutrow told The Associated Press on Tuesday morning in his barn at Aqueduct. "But I still don't understand what happened. I don't see the horse with a problem, so I have to direct my attention toward the ride. That's all I can come up with."
Of course you don't understand what happened. It's a horse. The horse probably doesn't understand you either. So, let's blame the only other person (besides yourself) that you can think of.
Prior to the race, Dutrow shot his mouth off and told people that Big Brown's Triple Crown victory was a "foregone conclusion." If he had a brain in his head he would know that (a) nothing is a foregone conclusion and (b) he was talking about a horse who really didn't know anything about Triple Crowns or (probably) what was at stake as he ran around in an oval. As is generally the case when someone promises or guarantees something, the opposite occurs. It's simple probability. In most cases, there is a 50/50 chance that the other thing will happen. When somebody tells you that something is a "sure thing" it's not all that certain. Then, when the "unthinkable" happens, we need to assess blame, which (as I said) we love to do.
It is especially helpful
to assess blame when there is money lost or there is a reputation to uphold. We need to find a scapegoat and a person or corporation to blame for what right-thinking people would refer to as fate.
The most recent case comes where one of the principles is a defenseless animal and the other is along for the ride. During the pre-race show they told us that Big Brown's value, should he win the Triple Crown, would be upwards of 100 million dollars. I don't care who you are, that's a lot of money for horse sperm, so it stands to reason that, when the horse finishes last that it is somebody's fault. Somebody besides the actual participant, who is powerless to speak for himself or the person who trained the participant who is assessing the blame.
"I had no horse. He was empty," Desormeaux said after the race. Dutrow insisted Tuesday he had found nothing wrong with Big Brown.
So, the trainer blamed the jockey and the jockey blamed the horse and the horse ... well, the horse just wants to know where the oat bag is. It isn't (and never was) his money.
And that's where the real blame lies.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Politeness Man, the next Superhero.

Sometimes I wish I was more of a smart-ass. I used to be, before age crept up on me and I started to value the way people perceived me. I think it passes, though. I think, as we grow older - older than I am now - we decide that we don't care how people think of us because they have no perspective and their tiny lives are no comparison to the length of time we've spent here. That happens when we're old and cranky and we think we've seen it all.
I haven't seen it all. I've seen some of it, and I'm not that big a fan. There's a lot of nonsense that I have to put up with on a daily basis just to make it to the next day. Nonsense that requires a response, but because I am Politeness Man, I find it difficult to reconcile. For instance:
I'm in the local convenience store (because it's convenient) and all I have on the counter is a turkey wrap, and the clerk asks, "Is that it?"
Politeness Man responds, "Yes," because that's his superpower. He has the ability to take a stupid question and respond with a polite answer. The proper answer is something wholly different, but Politeness Man does not have that superpower. The proper response would be something like, "That'd better be it." Or, "That looks like it." But, yes suffices.
Then, Politeness Man is listening to a debate over the latest sports failure, that of Big Brown, the horse who failed in his attempt to win the Triple Crown. The debaters were debating whether or not Big Brown was injured or that maybe the heat got to him or maybe he just didn't feel like running on Saturday. The debate took far longer than it should. Politeness Man stood idly by, and shrugged his shoulders. The proper response would have been an eye-roll and a "Jackass, he's a horse." Listening to people debate how a horse feels about running a mile and a half is a true test of Politeness Man's superpowers.
Politeness Man was driving along at the posted speed limit, all the while being tailgated by a woman in a giant vehicle who wanted to go faster but, because of Politeness Man's grip on the road was unable to proceed further.
They both got to the intersection simultaneously, and Politeness Man was in the left lane, ready to make a left turn. Tailgater was in the right lane, ready to go through the intersection. They stopped for the red light. When the light turned green, Politeness Man noticed that Tailgater was distracted because she was fiddling with her cellular telephone.
In a momentary lapse of reason, Politeness Man laid on his horn, and Tailgater's head shot up like yours does when you accidentally fall asleep in an important workplace meeting. Tailgater was startled, then proceeded on her way. Even though Politeness Man was not deterred by Tailgater's phone usage, he found it necessary to alert Tailgater to her loss of control of her vehicle.
Politeness Man is not infallible.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

It's so hot, the trees are whistling for the dogs.

"55 miles before noon, huh? good for you. doesn't your ass hurt though? man, mine does after about the 15 minute marker. and i have a gel seat too!"
- Kimmyk
There is mine. What, you don't think it's a great seat? You can look hard, but you won't find an ounce of gel. It's the slit down the middle that makes is special. And if you think that's neat, you should see the shoes.
It's way too hot around here. On Monday, we'll be in our third day of 95-plus temperatures. The local news stations are having a field day, literally. They've sent reporters outside to tell us how hot it is, as though we can't stick our heads out the door and find out for ourselves. I know genius, it's hot outside. These are the same nitwits who send reporters out when it snows and remind us to stay inside and don't drive unless we have to. Now, they send reporters out and tell us that it's hot and make sure we take care of our pets and drink plenty of water because it's hot outside. They call it news.
Between that and the $3.90 gasoline around here, I'm seeing a lot of people driving around with their windows open, figuring that they're getting better gas mileage because they're not using the air conditioner. They're saving pennies and sweating, then waiting in line for ten minutes at the bank or fast food drive-thru window with their motor running.
You figure it out.