Thursday, November 30, 2006

Yeah Bees Can Sniff Bombs, But Can They Pollinate Them?

Reuters is reporting that scientists from the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico announced that they have successfully trained bees to sniff out and extend their proboscis (the tube they use to eat) when they detect explosives. The story says that once trained, the bees could be transported in hand-held detectors and used for bomb detection. Apparently, wasps were also trained but scientists decided to go with the bees. It doesn’t say why but we all know that bees work harder than wasps. I’ve heard of busy bees but never busy wasps.

With all this effort being put forward, I sure hope that bees have lengthy life spans. It would be a travesty to train a bee for this important and special job and then have it die shortly after being commissioned, drafted, conscripted or whatever they choose to call it. Of course the other concerns have to be getting stung and losing the bees when they fly away. That probably explains the hand-held detectors they’ll use to carry them. After all, if Shamu can attack its Sea World trainer, I’m sure that bees will be tempted to sting the military personnel assigned to them. Also, what does the military do if any of these bees go AWOL? Hopefully the TCPB (training cost per bee) isn’t too expensive.

I wonder if there will be special sensitivity training for handlers who work with bomb sniffing dogs or the military trained dolphins we’re always hearing about. After all, the bomb sniffing bee handlers have got to be pretty low on the bomb sniffing totem poll. When groups of dog handlers walk by the bee handlers, who are holding their special bees in their special boxes, I bet they snicker. Some will probably even make mock buzzing sounds to affirm their obvious higher K-9 handling status. Isn’t the social world we live in cruel? What recourse will the bee handlers have to spare their dignity? Certainly yelling something like, “fine then, no honey for you” will not help their cause. Yep, I think sensitivity training should be a prerequisite for anyone who works with a bomb-sniffing creature that is larger than an insect.

It will sure be intimidating going to the airport with all of the airport security walking around holding their bomb sniffing black and yellow pollinators in shoebox size ‘containment units.’ Speaking of pollen, I bet bomb makers around the world are busy planting colorful and sweet scented flowers to use to mask the smell of their explosives. With what I imagine is the very short attention span of bees and their limited intelligence, you’ve got to believe that anything bright and sweet smelling will throw them off.

Of course, there is a big, sweet upside to using bees as opposed to dogs for sniffing out bombs.
I’m not talking about the obvious things like animal size and cost. Just think of it in terms of production. Bees produce honey and dogs produce, well you know what. You probably scooped some up after your dog today and I doubt it smelled like honey. How far the plans go to develop the use of bees as everyday bomb detectors remains to be seen. One thing is certain though, after 18 months of bee training, the scientists in New Mexico will have plenty of honey to get them through the winter, and our tax dollars paid for it…

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Scientists Prove Artificial Christmas Trees Help Promote Weight Loss

A revolutionary and landmark study was completed over the past holiday weekend and its results were announced yesterday. The San Bernardino, California based I Can’t Believe We Get Funding For This, Inc. (ICBWGFFT) research think tank has proven a link exists between holiday decorating and extreme calorie burning. It’s kind of the reverse of trimming the tree.

The research was conducted with fourteen men participating. All fourteen men ate until they became dizzy Thanksgiving Day and throughout the remainder of the holiday weekend. Seven of the men were then instructed to spend the weekend doing their normal routines while the second group of seven was asked to assemble a seven foot artificial Christmas tree complete with lights and decorations and then to string lights on their homes. The group of decorators lost thirteen pounds between Friday and Monday morning while the first group who did not decorate gained twenty. Incidentally, the group of weight gainers is now suing ICBWGFFT.

“Obviously there’s a significant link between holiday decorating and weight loss based on our highly controlled studies,” said ICBWGFFT’s lead scientist. “Everyone assumes that artificial trees are easier to deal with at Christmas time, but that is just a myth. With a real tree you just drive home from the lot or tree farm, put it up in your living room and decorate it, but with an artificial one you are responsible for lugging it around, erecting it and fluffing up all branches and tree tips before you can do anything else like adding lights or decorations,” she added.

The scientists believe that the constant motion necessary to assemble a decent looking artificial tree is equal to jogging or swimming for three consecutive hours. They observed their subjects’ non-stop activity as they made lap after lap after lap around their trees trying to make sure that each branch and tip on every single limb was positioned perfectly. The scientists also noted that the more compulsive the individual, the more time they spent arranging and rearranging the trees’ branches.

“These men would step away from the tree to look at their work, see a bare spot, and begin moving the branches again as if they just couldn’t stop working on their tree,” a scientist noted. “It’s like they were hummingbirds and had to maintain perpetual motion. To be honest with you, we’ve had a lot of fun reviewing our study subjects’ tapes and will probably submit a few to America’s Funniest Home Videos when we’re done.”

ICBWGFFT said that the more lights and decorations placed on the tree, the greater the weight loss would be. They also were able to counter the notion that stress can lead to weight gain. The holidays and decorating for them are some of the most stressful times of the year, but despite the stress the decorating men endured over the weekend, all seven subjects posted significant weight loss. Unfortunately, five of the seven subjects consumed an average of three cups of eggnog per day after the testing period and gained their weight back. Those subjects are also now suing ICBWGFFT.

Officials at ICBWGFFT celebrated their groundbreaking discovery by announcing this morning
that they have teamed up with an artificial garland manufacturing plant in Ohio to begin selling artificial Christmas trees with 5,000 tips and the most branches possible on any commercially available tree. They hope to have the tree, named The Thinning Tannenbaum, in major retail outlets, home improvement mega stores, vitamin supplement shops, Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig by the second week of December.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Oh Fudge! He Bought The ‘Christmas Story’ House.

Why watch a movie scene when you can own it? Who ever thought that when E-bay opened its doors (their virtual ones, I guess) that people would be buying parts of famous movies on it. That’s exactly what a man did with $150,000 dollars. He bought the house in Cleveland where Ralphie and his family lived in the movie “A Christmas Story.” It’s sure to become a cult destination and presumably all the Bumpus’ hounds are long since dead, so it’s probably a pretty safe investment. It opened for tours this past Saturday and the same gentleman bought the house across the street to be used as a gift shop and museum. The story gets better, the man also makes and sales his own leg lamps. I guess in a weird twist of fate the lamps based on the ‘major award’ that graced the house’s front window in the movie partly financed the purchase of the house itself. Only in America folks, only in America.

It’s one of my favorite movies and if you’ve never seen it, you should. It’s on DVD and TBS runs a 24-hour marathon of it every Christmas Eve. Personally, my family got so sick of me trying to sneak it on TV by changing the channel every time someone left the room on Christmas Eve that they just broke down and bought me the movie to shut me up (ha, the joke’s on them because it didn’t work). You could almost say that just trying to get it on the TV for everyone to see became my own personal Red Rider BB Gun quest. I like to slightly annoy the family by wearing my ‘you’ll shoot your eye out’ t-shirt on Christmas Eve for family pictures and I have a miniature leg lamp ornament that has its own special place on our tree (thanks Carlton Cards and your ornament makers). I’ll admit though that it does take a little creativity explaining to Lucy and Ethel (my twin youngins) why there is a fishnet stocking leg on our Christmas tree. Fortunately, it’s one of those explanations that can begin with the phrase, “when you get older…”

I guess it’s true when they say that there are some real bargains on E-bay. Wouldn’t it be neat to get to buy a piece of movie history? I think it would be a lot of fun owning an iconic home. You could stand in the driveway and wave to the people who drive by just to see it. Houses that come to mind are the Cunningham’s house on ‘Happy Days,’ Archie Bunker’s house, the beautiful home from the Steve Martin movie ‘Father of the Bride,’ (I actually know where that one is) and of course the Brady’s home on the Brady Bunch. By the way, did you know that the 'Brady' home is not a two-story house? Boy can they work wonders in Hollywood.

Of course, even though the houses may be iconic, you’d be in a little trouble if they weren’t so easily recognizable to others. Then you’d be stuck with a home you bought at an over inflated price because of its supposed fame. If that happens, don’t dare think about sticking a tacky sign up in the yard that reads, “Stop here – former home of the Cunninghams on ‘Happy Days.’ Photo ops only ten dollars.” That would be sure to tick off the neighbors. If you were going to live in one of them, tours would be out of the question, too. The family wouldn’t take too kindly to strangers traipsing in and out of the house throughout the day. I can see it now for poor little Suzy. Every time she’s in the shower, one of the tourists needs to use the guest bathroom downstairs and when the toilet is flushed, she is scalded.

So now, in addition to blogging, I’ll have to keep my eye on E-bay in case a famous house is put up for auction. I’d pursue Beaver’s house on ‘Leave it to Beaver,’ but that’s only a fake house on the Universal Studios lot. Hopefully Sheriff Andy Taylor’s house from ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ is real and will be auctioned off soon. The only problem is that the show was in black and white. Does anyone know what color it really is? I’d hate to bid on a house from a black and white television show and end up winning a house with purple trim. Maybe I’ll hold out for Graceland or that big house the President is always landing his helicopter in front of. The name of it escapes me at the moment. If it has enough room for a helicopter, I’m sure it has ample room for a bounce house. Hopefully they take Pay Pal.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Hello CIA, I’m Responding To Your Ad

I joked last week about wanting to do a story based on a radio commercial I heard about the fact that the CIA is hiring, but I was too afraid of Big Brother. Well, after reading this AP story about the CIA on Yahoo, I’m ready to. The story is about how the CIA is looking for new employees, which I guess they call recruits. The story says that they have shown ads during baseball games, taken out ad space in various magazines and airport billboards as well as during movie trailers. It even says the CIA has hired an ad agency. I bet the ad company’s creative folks are having a blast pitching ideas to CIA employees. I can hear it now, “ok guys, if you don’t think this tagline is good, you’re not going to shoot or torture me, right? Guys, smile, that was just a joke, really.”

Now I’m glad to know that I wasn’t the only one noticing how weird it is that our government’s intelligence agency is publicly seeking employees. Apparently one of the things the CIA wants to do is wipe away the notion that all CIA work is like the very fictional world of James Bond. I’m sure my stereotypical driveling in the next few paragraphs is the exact type of thinking they want to discourage, but I just can’t help it.

What a relief though to know that if the CIA were to hire me I wouldn’t have to go out and buy enough tuxedos for every day of the week. It would be a little sad in a way to be hired by the CIA and have all of those myths associated with covert work demystified so quickly. I could see myself sitting in my new cubicle saying to no one in particular, “so this is it, really? Can my ballpoint pen kill anybody? When do I get to meet Q? Did I miss the lady with the caviar cart or does she come by after lunch?” At that point I’m sure I’d be executed…I mean fired. Oops.

Although I know nothing about the workings of our country’s intelligence agency (I swear), I would imagine that working in a cubicle there beats working in a cubicle for anyone else. My guess is that the two most interesting departments would be HR and the requisitioning department. My mind can only imagine what items would be requisitioned at the CIA. Of course, in reality it’s probably the same type of stuff at any company like pencils, pens, computers, paper, copier toner and explosive tie clips. Wouldn’t it be great to hear a line like, “did you get that order of magnetic, homing device, self destructing wrist watches filled yet,” just once while at work.

HR might be the easiest department since every personnel file would be marked ‘classified.’ Imagine having to review someone’s file to determine whether administrative leave is necessary after he or she destroyed an entire riverfront Bistro in pursuit of a wanted dangerous international smuggler. More than likely, the day-to-day monotony of a CIA HR person would be filled with healthcare enrollment options, retirement packages and sexual harassment claims filed by older cold war relic spies who keep hitting on their new, young secretaries by calling them Ms. Moneypenny and asking if they’d like to see his Aston Martin (if you catch my drift).

Man, I bet the training films are great to watch. Do you think they save money and just show Bond films or do you think they actually make the training films themselves? Do the training films talk about how important it is to forget what you overheard during lunch or to only look down at the floor or up to the ceiling when walking down the hall? Does it cover the importance of leaving your disguises in the office and not forwarding government email to your best friend from high school just because it says ‘for your eyes only’ or ‘this message must be destroyed after receipt?’ My mind tingles at the possibilities.

Do you think the CIA plays other government entities in a governmental softball or bowling league? I bet that all the CIA players show up in Ray-Ban sunglasses and fake beards. I wonder if the other teams just throw the games because they are afraid of what would happen if they beat the CIA. No matter what the answers to all of these questions are, I think it would be great to join the CIA. Do you think our nation’s security could be better achieved with the help of someone who willingly and proudly writes daily about nothing worthwhile? Or perhaps my blog is just a decoy…Bwahahahaha…

**Author’s Disclaimer: Of course, I do not work for the CIA. Although if I did, I could not tell you. No, seriously, I’m just your everyday Monday through Friday cubicle dweller who writes a blog. I have no knowledge of espionage or intelligence gathering. I am not even pretending to, as that is probably a crime. Although if I did have knowledge about it, telling you would definitely be a crime. But I’m not, so there…

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Repost Sunday: Commuters Rejoice, For Just A Few Seconds

I rerun some of my older posts on Sundays as a way to highlight stories that you may have missed. Just think of it as 'thought recycling' and a day off, or that I am incredibly, incredibly lazy.

This story seemed suitable since we all have to get back in our cars, face the traffic and head back to work after the long holiday tomorrow (although I have to be back in the office today, unfortunately). This was originally posted August 31, 2006.

Are you waking too early in the morning and missing time with your family because you return from work too late at night? Well, those times are coming to an end, some would say. The census bureau has announced that since 2000, the average daily commute time in the U.S. has gone down by 24 seconds. You read it right, our good friends who conduct the census actually took the time announce that your commute time is less than half a minute shorter!

And it gets even better because that’s only accounting for a one-way trip. That means your commute is actually 48 seconds shorter because I don’t know anyone who only drives to work and doesn’t bother driving back home, unless they’re employed by the mob, perhaps. So rejoice, break open the bubbly and make those early dinner reservations.

The new commute time average is now 25.1 minutes, which is down from 25.5 in 2000. I don’t know about where you live but the realistic commute time here in Southern California easily has to be double that. Around here, the urban sprawl has led to an urban crawl. It takes forever to get anywhere at any time of day where I live. The long travel times also apply to going to the grocery store, to dinner or just about anywhere. It’s an added challenge when you have twins that you recently potty trained in the car with you. Driving in traffic with them is a lot like the movie Speed. You can’t go over 55 mph and you’re driving around a ticking time bomb, so to speak.

Sadly, in most cities where the freeways have existed for 50 years now, there is very little room for highway expansion. Until we get to the days of the Jetsons where we can fly little teacup saucer looking UFO things to work, we will have to make do with long commutes. I have read that some freeways may become double deckers. Although by the time they are approved, engineered, built and opened, our commute time will be around 79 seconds less and all the work won’t be worth it because we’ll all be so happy with the extra free time. Let’s face it, for most of our lives, the definition of commute will continue to be “the action of driving long distances to work in a city where the driver cannot afford to live.”

But let’s not dwell on the negative grief that our ever-expanding nation has caused us. Let’s focus instead on all of the wonderful things we can do now with that extra 48 seconds we will have each workday.

With all that extra time, we can um, well, let me see… It’s more time to floss. It’s almost a minute sooner that you can sit down to dinner. It’s one less commercial on the radio or one less traffic update reiterating that the freeway you are currently on is stopped like a parking lot. 48 seconds is more than enough time to get another telemarketer call or bitten by one more mosquito while enjoying the extra time relaxing outside in the evening. It provides almost a whole minute more of game show watching. But most importantly of all, it’s 48 more ticks of the clock that you can spend blogging.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Things I Learned This Week: 11/25/06

Because I want to spare you from experiencing some of the things I endured over the last few days, I post “Things I Learned This Week” each Saturday. It’s educational, sometimes insightful and always pathetic. I hope that at least one item on this list will make your upcoming week much easier. So here are the “Things I Learned This Week” for the week of 11/19/06-11/25/06.

! I learned that it’s a little awkward being the lone person laughing out loud in a movie theater with only ten other people in it.

! I learned that asking if I can watch the Clipper/Laker game during my mother-in-law’s birthday dinner isn’t the most prudent thing to do. Especially with Thanksgiving only two days away.

! I learned that being without the wife and kids for three straight days doesn’t make me a bachelor or mean that I’m on vacation. It means that I’ve got plenty of time to get the honey-dos done and no excuses not to.

! I learned that being the guy who volunteers to stay until closing at work on the day before Thanksgiving doesn’t make me a team player. It makes me an idiot.

! I learned that perhaps we take too many pictures of our twins when every time they just see a camera (whether it’s pointed at them or not) they look at it, pose, smile and say ‘cheese.’ I think Pavlov called that a ‘conditioned’ response?

! I learned that there is such a thing as too much turkey and stuffing but there can never be enough Cool-Whip or other whipped topping on the holiday table.

And lastly,

! I learned that I should have known when my wife called me while shopping after Christmas last year about replacing every other clear white bulb on our outdoor Christmas lights with a clear red one, that I would be the one responsible for switching them all out after Thanksgiving this year.

Friday, November 24, 2006

Seeing Red And Green On Black Friday

We made it! It’s the day after Thanksgiving and while all of us are still stuffed from yesterday’s dinner, we are either taking advantage of the day off or working amid diehard holiday shoppers. Retailers call it Black Friday and I call it the beginning of the holiday madness. Radio stations start popping in a Christmas tune every few songs and our neighborhoods start to transform into festivals of light.

All throughout the land wives woke up early this morning to get a jump on their holiday shopping. They promised to be back by lunch but will probably not make it back by dinner. The muffled mumbles of men cussing as they try to untangle the mess they made when they put away the Christmas lights last year can be heard from every mountaintop. Thousands of turkey sandwiches have already been eaten today and if you want to go to a local shopping mall this evening, you’d better plan on being airlifted in.

I’ve never chosen to partake in the chaos of Black Friday, but I have participated in the holiday light shuffle. First I budget myself 2 hours to find the box I put them in last year. Once I find the box, which is always the last one you’d think to check, I spend another two hours untangling them. My violent light untangling usually results in a few broken bulbs. That’s ok, it just adds to the several I’ll need to replace once I plug the string in anyway. Then comes finding the ladder and breaking a few more bulbs as I try to string them up.

When all of that is finally done, I can step back from the house and into the street to admire my shining beacons of the holiday season. That self-adulation is of course quickly cut short when I notice that two more bulbs have gone out. But a-ha, that’s just part of the game. That’s why I won’t put my ladder away until after Christmas this year. Now the lights won’t be able to beat me into a deranged and mumbling lunatic every time another one burns out. Strangely enough, I look forward to my annual showdown with the lights.

This year I decided to copy almost everyone else around me and buy the red and green landing lights for Santa. I thought my girls would get a kick out if them, and of course I knew that I would enjoy them. My only fear now is that I have a lighted runway leading straight to my front door for errant drivers and very lousy private pilots. Hopefully the lighted candy canes and nutcracker soldiers will deter them.

By the time today is over, everyone who has shopped and decorated will be exhausted and slightly on edge. In each of their minds, every minute of the frustration was worth it. Especially for the ten people across the country who were lucky enough to find the last ten Tickle Me Elmo Extremes known to man. Now if you’ll excuse me, my turkey sandwich is ready and I have to figure out how to plug another 1,000 lights and a sleigh into a surge protector that is already full. You can plug one full surge protector into another, can’t you?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

But I Thought These Were The Turkeys You Pardoned

President Bush carried on a tradition yesterday that dates back to Harry Truman in 1947. He pardoned a turkey (and it’s backup) for Thanksgiving, thus sparing them from someone’s dinner table. The two birds, Flyer and Fryer, were set to spend the day at Disneyland as grand marshals of a Thanksgiving Day Parade instead of at the bottom of a pot of boiling oil.

However, calamity ensued late Wednesday night in California as the two pardoned turkeys arrived at Disneyland. The park's officials realized that the two birds were not Fryer and Flyer but two larger birds named Yum and Me. Phone calls were immediately placed to the White House to advise them of the mix up but it was too late. Fryer and Flyer had already been ‘processed’ and were almost ready to be served at both the White House as Turduken and at a local Washington DC shelter.

“All I can say is oops,” said a White House official. “There was a mix up after the pardoning ceremony and Fryer and Flyer were accidentally placed back into the wrong holding pen. I guess things like this happen all the time; these birds all look the same. They sure smell good though,” he added.

Asked whether or not the bird that was still going to be served at the White House as part of Turduken, which most believe to be Flyer, the official stated, “well, he has already been prepared so it would be a shame not to go ahead and eat him. We’ll just be more careful next year.”

The White House released a statement this morning that condemns the careless judgment of the turkey handlers. The release said that plans are already in motion to prevent this from happening next year. It calls for a congressional hearing and investigation, an improved ten-step post-pardon ceremony turkey handling process and possibly the formation of a new cabinet position to oversee all meaningless Presidential traditions. Lastly, the White House has promised they will use turkey shaped tofu for their dinner next year to make up for accidentally eating the official national turkey.

“We all feel awful about the mix-up. We will not smile, laugh or show excitement in any way as we try our best not to enjoy this turkey while we are eating its succulent and tender meat. Mmmmmmmm, tuuuurrrrkeeeeeeey,” said a drooling White House official.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Oh My God, They're Turkeys!!!!

I cannot enjoy the thanksgiving holiday without remembering possibly the single funniest moment (at least for me) in television history. Of course I am speaking about the famous 'WKRP' In Cinncinati turkey drop. The episode was called “Turkey’s Away” and originally aired in 1978. For me, the staples of Thanksgiving have now become turkey, can-shaped cranberry muck, pumpkin pie and this WKRP episode. Perhaps the only other Thanksgiving television episode that comes close is the ‘Cheers’ Thanksgiving food fight.

It is uncommon for me to talk to someone who doesn’t remember part of that episode. Each year morning radio DJs all over this country will invariably refer to it or play a clip of it during their day before Thanksgiving radio show. A co-worker heard it again on one of the local stations this morning. The segment where WKRP’s reporter describes the Thanksgiving Day promotion is absolutely hysterical and invokes memories of older historic radio broadcasts. Perhaps the most memorable line (although there are many) from that episode is the vivid description ‘they’re hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement.’ That’s usually the line most often repeated by DJs. As the radio promotion from hell unravels, Les Nessman even compares it to the Hindenburg tragedy.

Most of us can be thankful on Thursday for many, many things. Some of them are big and some of them are not as monumental. This 30-minute episode of television reminds me that one of the things I am most thankful for is our ability to laugh. So, whether you are traveling or preparing the big holiday meal, take five minutes to relax and enjoy this gem from a Thanksgiving long ago (at least by TV standards). If you are stressed out preparing for the big day or just trying to get over the river and through the woods or over the highways and through the stop lights, watching this will definitely help you settle down. Enjoy…

"As God is my witness, I thought turkeys could fly."
-I feel your pain, Mr. Carlson.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Forbes’ Richest Fake Folks

I was originally going to do a post about a radio commercial I still can’t believe I heard yesterday. I’m paraphrasing here, but it was an ad to join the CIA. I know I heard the word clandestine at least three times and they are apparently an equal opportunity employer. The more I thought about it, I began to fear writing about a radio ad that was seeking employees for our country’s intelligence agency (even though it’s sooooo ripe for commentary). Well big brother, ya got me this time. It’s unfortunate too because I could already picture myself as a spy with Carly Simon singing ‘Nobody Does It Better’ in the background as I go lurking all over the world.

Fortunately, Reuters published a story about Forbes’ annual list of the richest fictional characters today. Now I can blog about that instead since I’m sure none of the ‘people’ on the list can come after me. The list is posted at Once we move beyond the issue of why we would care about who the wealthiest non-real person is, the list is actually very interesting.

The story says that Santa (who has infinite wealth, just ask his elves) was removed from the #1 spot this year because children have proven he’s real through the Christmas presents they received and the cookies and milk Santa appears to eat each Christmas Eve. That gives the title of richest fictional character to Daddy Warbucks. Forbes estimated that Montgomery Burns from ‘The Simpsons’ is the second richest (apparently evil pays) and Scrooge McDuck is the third richest made-up mogul. Other notables on the list include Richie Rich, Jed Clampett, the Monopoly dude, Bruce Wayne (or is it Batman, hmmmmm) and ‘Gilligan Island’s’ Thurston Howell III (I guess it’s hard to lose your wealth when stranded on an island with the castaways and you’re there for a long, long time).

Determining the value and wealth of people that don’t exist seems like a lot of fun and not having ever read this list before, it brings to mind folks who may have been left off the list. How about James Bond? His government and MI6 seem to bankroll great cars, money to gamble with, diamonds (they last forever, you know) and more. If that were all to be added up, I’m sure it would be a great deal of money. Maybe Forbes didn’t give James the credit for that since it’s property of the British Empire and their make believe company Universal Exports. One has to wonder how Fred Flintstone would size up when his income is adjusted against today’s financial climate. What about all those prissy little Disney Princesses? Although most of them were not born into their titles or kingdoms, they became royalty and their castles, horses, crowns, etc. have to be worth bank (is that how the cool kids say it?).

The guy that owned Knight Industries and created Michael Knight and KITT has to have a few dollars on him. Those talking ’84 Trans-Ams are hard to come by, you know. Phillip and Kimberly Drummond had enough money to live in a penthouse, have a live-in housekeeper, limo and chauffeur and were still able to take in two orphans. Plus, they lived in one of the nicest neighborhoods in New York. I would think that would make them eligible for the list. Of course, Arnold and Willis make me think of Ricky Schroeder’s character and his family from Silver Spoons. They were rich, heck that was the whole premise of the show. That would qualify them, I would assume.

Perhaps the richest of all is that character that cooks and decorates. She even has magazines, books and TV shows to her credit. She’s so rich that going to prison couldn’t affect her wealth. I can’t believe she’s not rich enough to make the list. Then there’s the fictitious mogul who hot air balloon rides all over the world and owns an airline, not an airplane, but an entire airline. What about the rich fella with the bad comb-over who invites people onto TV to compete for a job with his company? Oh wait, you mean all those people are real? Get outta here! They’re on TV all the time so I just naturally assumed they were make believe. Well then, never mind…

Monday, November 20, 2006

Sensing Sensory Overload in So Cal

Man, this has been a weird week in Southern California. Maybe all those smart guys and gals are right; global warming is real and it’s happening all around us. It was 90 degrees today, it’s the week of Thanksgiving and the 24/7 Christmas music has already started. I almost blew my mind right there just writing about it! The early start to Christmas isn’t so new, but it feels like summer, we are preparing for Christmas and the Thanksgiving turkey is about to be thawed, which won’t take so long this year if the temperatures hold up. I don’t think my brain can process all of this.

I guess it first started when we went to Disneyland last week. It was almost 90 degrees then and when we got there we discovered that they were already celebrating Christmas! It’s not that I dislike Christmas; it’s quite the opposite. I love the holiday season. That’s what you get for having a birthday on Christmas Eve, I guess. It is a little odd being on Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A looking at what had to be a 60-foot tall Christmas tree while Christmas carols are being sung and you are sweating. Poor old Santa Claus must have sweat 20 pounds off that one day alone in his red suit with all those kids sitting on him. And I can tell you for sure that it doesn’t feel Christmassy taking a picture of your daughters with Mrs. Claus while she is sweating all over them. (Sorry for my overuse of the word sweat in this paragraph. Does anyone know a synonym for sweat?)

It was sensory overload indeed as you looked and saw Christmas all around you but felt like you should be at the beach celebrating the Fourth of July. Perhaps the weirdest Disneyland memory I’ll ever have will be baking in the sun sitting in the little ride boat during the short outside part of ‘It’s A Small World’ while all the children of the earth sang Jingle Bells in every language known to man (except of course for that clicking language, unfortunately it just doesn't translate well). At least Captain Jack Sparrow and The Pirates of the Caribbean were not singing ‘It’s A Marshmallow World.’

The local Los Angeles adult contemporary radio station began playing their annual 24/7 Christmas music on Friday, so that didn’t help things any. Again, the weather and the music just didn’t jive. The closest it gets is when they play ‘Little St. Nick’ by the Beach Boys. It’s great hearing the holiday music but it just does not feel like that time of year. Not that I expect it to snow around here or anything, but it was 70 degrees out when I woke up at 6am this morning. During some fall and winter days here that’s as hot as it gets, period.

Surf weather isn’t exactly the best time to hear Dean Martin sing ‘Winter Wonderland’ or Elton John sing ‘Step Into Christmas.’ It should be more like ‘Step Into A Parallel Universe Where It’s Christmas In July During Thanksgiving.’ That probably doesn’t work too well rhythmically though and the title is too long. What also doesn’t work is the radio station’s play list at times. I can’t think of any time or any place where it’s appropriate to follow Bing Crosby crooning a Christmas classic with Justin Timberlake trying to sing a 'new' Christmas song. Maybe someone dared the program director to do it…and lost.

In just three days it will be Turkey Day and the weather is supposed to be the same as it is now. I get kind of Norman Rockwellish (or Rockwelly, if you prefer) when I think of Thanksgiving. I picture fallen leaves, autumn colors and maybe a dusting of snow with everyone bundled up. We might have to forgo all of that this year. I’ll be wearing a nice shorts and Hawaiian shirt ensemble. It could be the first year, in my memory, where the air conditioning has to be run because the oven and all the cooking are making the kitchen so hot. The annual football game may have to be replaced by swimming pool basketball. Heck, it could be the start of a new tradition. We’ll call it the Turkey Swim. Never mind, it just occurred to me that if someone Googled ‘Turkey’ and the search result came back with ‘Turkey Swim,’ I’d have the great folks down at PETA all over my tail feathers.

It certainly is a weird time of year. The summer heat, Christmas music/décor and all of the Thanksgiving preparations are a very weird combination to process. In fact, I smell smoke. My first fear was that it was me trying to comprehend all of this, until I realized it was either the Yule log next door, smoked turkey across the street or the asphalt melting in the driveway. I have no idea how long this will go on or how long I’ll be able to take it. No matter what happens, I hope I can find an eggnog flavored snow cone to help me cope…

Nothing Worthwhile Pondering Of The Day: When did it become fashionable and chic to put a realtor’s picture on a house’s for sale sign? Did someone conduct research that showed a person might be more inclined to spend $800,000 on a house just because the realtor was blonde and semi-hot looking?

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Repost Sunday: Soldiers And Police Officers Urged to Get Breast Implants

I rerun some of my older posts on Sundays as a way to highlight stories that you may have missed. Just think of it as 'thought recycling' and a day off, or that I am incredibly, incredibly lazy. This was originally posted August 17, 2006.

A woman in Israel is thanking her maker that she recently decided to increase her cup size. It saved her life. She almost became another victim of the conflict between Israel and Lebanon. Shrapnel penetrated her chest but was stopped in place by her breast implant. The amazing story has given military leaders and law officials in this country their “breast” idea yet. Unless your safety depends on bulletproof vests.

“It’s remarkable that we’re spending money on ugly looking bulletproof vests to protect our officers when there is such an attractive solution right before our eyes,” said a local police chief.

“It’s gonna look funny, but my soldiers’ safety is of the utmost importance, even if it means we’ll have an army of girly men” said an Army Major General.

My assumption is that the prices for both the vests and the implants are comparable but I have never had a reason to purchase either. Imagine what a great distraction it would be for opposing armies and criminals. Having big men in uniform approaching you with guns drawn would be intimidating. Now imagine those same men coming at you with guns drawn and cleavage showing. By the time your bewildered mind came to terms with what you were seeing, they would have you surrounded without a shot being fired.

Of course, if you were the uniformed officer or soldier (once you got over the embarrassment of having breasts) and the enemy does manage to get a shot off, you can always stick out your chest like Dolly Parton and let your implants save you.

I can see a time years from now when veterans will be sitting around comparing scars and telling war stories while suddenly several big chested men get up and leave in embarrassment because they paid the ultimate price for their country. Now just one question remains, what cup size provides the most protection?

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Things I Learned This Week: 11/18/06

Because I want to spare you from experiencing some of the things I endured over the last few days, I post “Things I Learned This Week” each Saturday. It’s educational, sometimes insightful and always pathetic. I hope that at least one item on this list will make your upcoming week much easier. So here are the “Things I Learned This Week” for the week of 11/12/06-11/18/06.

! I learned that it’s not a good idea to begin a discussion about workplace respect and tolerance with my coworkers by saying “I just want to be upfront and tell you that I am guilty of everything we are about to discuss.” It’s not as disarmingly charming as you might think.

! I learned that when I am trying to convince my 4-years olds to ride the Haunted Mansion while at Disneyland that it’s best to omit the word ‘haunted’ and ‘ghosts’ from my description of it.

! I learned that when buying lunch for a client it’s important to wait until after everyone has ordered to inform them that lunch is on me.

! I learned that even though I am virtually 100% sure I know the next answer of my coworker’s computer training lesson, I should not swear to my coworker that the answer is ‘D: All of the Above.’ Especially when the correct answer ends up being ‘B.’ I’ve discovered that it’s those types of interactions that tend to lower office moral and respect…oops.

! I learned that no matter how excited I am that the local Los Angeles adult contemporary radio station has started playing 24/7 Christmas music, not everyone may share my enthusiasm and according to my coworkers, apparently my radio does have a control to lower the volume and I should be using it more often.

! I learned that no matter how important I think the weekend finale of the NASCAR season is; to my daughters it will never be as important as whatever cartoon, movie or children’s DVD that I had to turn off to watch the racing. I hope it isn’t situations like these that get one branded as a bad father.

And lastly,

! I learned that no matter how much fun it is to have them participate, never ask your 4-year olds to help you pour a new bag of Rice Krispies into the cereal bowl. To them it’s about as difficult as trying to fit a bowling ball into a Dixie cup.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Laying Down The Laws Of Lunch (Business Style)

I’m not sure if there are rules or etiquette about the ‘business lunch.’ If there are, I have not been exposed to them and I certainly haven’t sought them out. Perhaps that’s why my business lunches are so awkward – and why I try to avoid them at all costs, although it’s not the cost of them that bothers me.

When you take a client or business associate to lunch, let’s face it, there is a reason and it usually goes far beyond hunger. When are the appropriate times to discuss business? Do you cram some of it in before ordering drinks and ordering your entrée? Do you make small talk until the meal arrives? Do you wait and fight for the check or do you insist you pay? While these questions seem simple, if not executed properly, you can come out looking like an idiot or a graceless pig. Always remember that you need to be on your best behavior. You are not eating with your friends; you are eating with clients, business associates or the worst type of business lunch imaginable: upper management. If your friends have seen you eat and are still your friends, you’ve already cleared that public hurdle.

If you are taking a client to lunch, as I often have to do, it’s usually a foregone conclusion that you will be paying and hopefully it’s on the company dollar (although never abuse your expense account as it’s the closest most of us will get to money growing on trees). Knowing that someone else is paying for your meal is a weird situation and I think the proper thing is to diffuse it early on. That is why, even when there are ladies present and it seems like the rude thing to do, I suggest that you order first. To make your client feel comfortable when their turn comes to order, always order the most expensive thing on the menu. Really do it in style, because it puts everyone more at ease. What that means is don’t just order the lobster, politely demand that you get the biggest one in the tank (you know, the one that everybody OOHS and AHHHS about and the one that the staff has nicknamed), and top it off with the biggest filet mignon they offer. The steak will be easy to identify on the menu since it will probably start with the name ‘big’ or end in the word ‘special.’ Plenty of appetizers really kick the business lunch off well, too. Follow these steps and provided your company doesn’t terminate you when they see your receipts, your business lunches will always be comfortable and productive no matter how big the bill or when you actually begin discussing business.

Another common business lunch concern is the question of when to eat and when to talk. I usually fumble this one. Why is it I always get a great idea or comment when my mouth is full? It’s very difficult trying to disguise the fact that you are talking with your mouth full, but then it’s frustrating waiting to speak until after you have fully chewed your food and then what you wanted to say is already irrelevant. Hopefully you have not ordered something messy like chili cheese fries or super nachos, which make articulating your ideas a rather dirty affair. A safe rule of thumb is to never, ever order anything you can eat with your hands. I say: “if it requires a Utensil, U hands stay clean.” Ok, I’ve never really said that, but if the feedback is good then I might begin.

Since you always want to have your ‘A’ game and want to look professional during a business lunch, pay attention to the physical cues of the client sitting across from you. If they keep licking the corner of their mouth or wiping softly at their chin while you are speaking, treat them as a mirror and do what they are doing. Chances are these non-verbal clues are telling you that you’ve got salad dressing or drawn butter dripping down your face. If they take their hand and wipe it drastically across their face and mouth, you are an idiot for not noticing or feeling the massive amount of food stuck to you.

When something potentially embarrassing happens like a piece of food launches out of your mouth and achieves orbit or lands on the fake Tiffany lamp above you, or you spill something on your shirt, don’t hide from it, acknowledge it. A good way to disarm the criticism they will have of you after they leave the restaurant is to cuss loudly and say something like, “ Oh #$#$$*$##@, did you see that piece of meat? Can’t keep a good morsel down I always say!” “Holy @^$^&#@#, did you see that thing fly? I thought I ordered meat from a cow, not a bird,” always works well too. Should you accidentally spill your drink during the lunch, take ownership of it by suggesting the flavor wasn’t to your liking or that the dinosaur from “Jurassic Park” must be getting really close because he usually just causes beverages to ripple and not completely topple. Whatever the situation, don’t treat it like a pink elephant in the corner.

Although if you do happen to see a pink elephant in the corner and you have verified that the party with you does not see it, your lunch is over. Immediately put your drink down and call a taxi. Just make sure you grab a copy of the receipt for reimbursement…and remember to tip your waitress!

Thoughtful Tip For The Day: Tell someone that they inspired you today. The littlest things mean so much sometimes. You can say something like:

‘You’ve inspired me to be a better worker’
‘You’ve inspired me to be a better parent’
‘You’ve inspired me to take my health more seriously’
‘You’ve inspired me to take out a restraining order against you’
‘You’ve inspired me to go buy mouthwash’
‘You’ve inspired me to remove you permanently from my address book’

‘You’ve inspired me to denounce my American citizenship’

It makes people feel great to know that they have been an inspiration, so try it and tell someone that they have impacted your life today.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The Tie That Truly Binds (And Other Completely Useless Observations)

I’ve had many things on my mind lately and figured it’s time to start pondering some of them out loud. I figure that by doing so maybe I’ll get some answers or other insight into the oddities of our lives. Or, maybe they are just oddities as perceived by me. I guess we’ll see…

I’m ‘Tied’ To My Job
First things first, who the heck invented the necktie? It dangles down just waiting to be stapled inadvertently to something or stuck in the paper shredder. Even worse, a tie can be grabbed violently by your worst enemy and used to choke or hang you (but that’s pretty extreme, so we won’t focus on it here). Plus, wearing one is very uncomfortable. Maybe uncomfortability is part of the intention behind the invention. At the company I work for, we are required to wear ties. When you compare the typical tie-wearing day with a casual clothing day, the tie days are much more productive. Maybe American upper management is keenly aware that if we work uncomfortably, we’ll be more uptight and better focused on work than we will be on casual days. I guess it’s the same uncomfortable issue at work when we attend weddings or funerals. We are wearing tight ties and it reminds us that we are at a sacred and special ceremony. Granted, I don’t have to wear a bra or pantyhose everyday so I should probably keep my mouth shut because I can’t imagine that either one of those are too comfortable either.

Pharmacy Shmarmacy
Metal laced aspirin aside, when did prescribed medication potentially cause more problems than it’s supposed to fix? While watching Studio 60 (a show I really enjoy but that is way too serious about being funny) last night we saw a commercial for a prescription drug. At the end of the commercial and 30 seconds of different actors explaining the drug’s potential side affects, we realized the side affects so completely overshadowed the cure that we couldn’t remember what the drug treated in the first place!

Given the choice of a migraine or chronic diarrhea with the bends and acne eruptions equal to Mt. Vesuvius, I’ll happily take the few hour migraine. Hmmm, joint stiffness or medication induced blindness? I’ll take the joint stiffness. Heck, one of my heart medications actually listed breast growth/swelling as a side affect. While having larger breasts doesn’t do much for me personally (is my drug company conspiring with Man-bra manufacturers?) I’d be willing to sell doses to women who might appreciate the side affect more than I do, but then I’d get in trouble. I’m glad that pharmaceutical companies feel they have a responsibility to report all of the side affects that their medications cause, but I’ve got to believe with what some of those side affects are that their sales are plummeting.

EVOO? Yum-O!
Is it just me or did The Food Network’s Rachael Ray replace Oprah as the Queen of all Media overnight? There was once a time a few years ago where I thought she was a cute and perky on-air cooking personality (and made the mistake of telling my wife), but that was back in the day, like circa 2002. In the past two years or so her stock has apparently risen, a lot. Today there are Rachael Ray cookbooks, at least three Food Network series, a daytime talk show and a product line. Rachael is everywhere. I just saw her on a cardboard advertisement in the chip and dip aisle hawking something for Nabisco. I’ll admit though that there could be worse faces to be subject to 24-7, like Carl Malden perhaps.

However, it’s obvious she is slowly planning to overtake all known media outlets through her disarmingly perky catch phrases and her liberal use of EVOO. It was never more apparent to me than last night when I was flipping channels with my 4 year olds, Lucy and Ethel. Surprise, surprise, Rachael was on the Food Network and the twins yelled out “Daddy, it’s Rachael Ray!” I couldn’t believe it, but I guess when preschoolers can recognize you instantly, your media domination is nearly complete. As Rachael would say, “How good is That?” Well Rachael, it’s so delish. All hail (the apparent) Queen Rachael!

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

It’s Time To Define Cool, Baby

With the new James Bond and new James Bond movie, “Casino Royale” premiering this week there has been a lot of discussion about the entire James Bond universe. Add to that the fact that I’ve been playing a lot of Sinatra at work lately and I’ve come to realize what the definition of cool really is (although please read my disclaimer below about cool). It’s somewhere between Sinatra and Bond (maybe that’s Dean Martin since he also played Matt Helm, who was a post Bond 60s spy). When I say Bond, I mean mostly Connery’s Bond. I will admit though that Roger Moore is probably my favorite Bond (please don’t send me hate mail) because he was a little funnier and he is the 007 I grew up watching. Is it a coincidence that my idea of coolness took place during the early ‘60s? Probably not. If you want your 6 degrees of linking thing, well, Nancy Sinatra did do the theme song for Connery’s “You Only Live Twice.”

We’ll start with the Bond half of the coolness gauge. To this very day, if you see a guy in a tux holding a gun, you think James Bond. He was no-nonsense with the driest humor of any of the James Bonds. He wore perfectly tailored suits and had just the right mix of mostly-believable gadgets. It seemed there was nothing this guy couldn’t do. He was also very smooth around the women and unlike Roger Moore, he didn’t have those huge shirt collars and bell-bottoms to slow him down, you know, more drag and air resistance. Connery’s Bond also got to be Bond to some really great music, unlike Moore who had to parade around to what was essentially disco music. We’ll just say Moore was a great Bond at a bad time and leave it at that.

Of course, as hard as it seems because he’s been around over forty years, James Bond isn’t real. It was the presentation of the Bond character with the hippest cars, music, wardrobe, etc. that made it all look so cool. Well, at least it looked cool when they weren’t speeding up the film to make the action look faster. Whether in the face of certain death or the presence of the definition of beauty, Connery was calm, cool and collected and could usually make a sly joke about it. Connery, like Sinatra made the fedora and the cigarette look cool as few others could, and the image still holds up.

What guy wouldn’t want to be James Bond? What guy wouldn’t just once like the chance to disarm any woman he met (although I’d probably clam up and become a stammering idiot), drive a classy sports car (I’d probably ruin the transmission), gamble with high stakes (I’d lose because I have no idea how to play baccarat or craps) or defeat the bad guy with brawn, brains and gadgetry (I’d press the wrong button and end up killing myself). I can’t think of even one. I guess James Bond is the answer to every guy’s midlife crisis. I haven’t even brought up the fact that he was a spy with a license to kill…

When it comes to Sinatra, he defined cool and got to show it off with his pipes (as he’d probably call his voice). When he hung out with his buddies like Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr, etc, they called themselves The Summit (not the Rat Pack as we refer to them) as in the pinnacle or the height of cool, which is what they were. When you factor in James Bond, perhaps never before in history has a group of middle-aged men been the poster image of cool. For you parents of youngins out there, no, The Wiggles don’t count!

Sinatra’s phrasing, tempo and the way he talked were so hip at the time that even squares had to be impressed (I have no idea where that sentence just came from, I am so sorry). Who else could call eyes glimmers or make the word cuckoo seem in style? Ladies were dames, guys were cats and leaving quickly was called ‘taking a powder.’ If I were to say take a powder to someone today, I guarantee you it would be followed by them asking me what I just said, or a visit from a narcotics officer.

It’s definitely a time that has long since passed. Maybe more than anything, it’s the imagery of a time long gone that makes it all seem so cool. Maybe it was just a time in our history when it was easier to be cool. Do you want proof of that? Just try to find a guy in his 20s-40s today wearing a fedora and referring to his girlfriend as a dame. I’d be willing to bet you won’t and if you do, he’s probably being laughed at. On the other hand, you probably wouldn’t find Bond or Sinatra in a pair of cargo shorts, either.

**Author’s disclaimer – it needs to be understood that I am the least cool person I know, so me writing about the definition of cool would be like me writing an article about first hand experience with menopause or childbirth**

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Got Your Rocks? Got Your Paper? Got Your Scissors? You’ve Got The Keys To World Peace!

The AFP news service and Reuters reported that in Toronto this past weekend The World RPS Society held a rock, paper scissors tournament. The RPS Society held the event in the hopes that it will inspire people to use it more often to settle disagreements. The event has been held since 2002. The 500 players were RPS’ing for the world championship and the 10,000 Canadian dollars that went with it.

Almost every child the world over knows how to play RPS, whether it’s being played as a game or to determine who gets the upper bunk. Heck, Reuters reminds us that James Bond even played it in “You Only Live Twice.” If James Bond can play RPS, well enough said. I’ve played it a few times but not to settle a difference I had with someone. To do that, I just use money, usually fives or tens. I think if every child were taught to use RPS as a form of conflict resolution, the world would be a better place. Besides, you don’t always have a quarter or other coinage around when the really tough decisions need to be made. There is a pending bill that would use RPS to break stalemates in congress and my employer has listed it as an alternative to conflict resolution.

It’s not widely known, but RPS has been used on the national and international stage more frequently that previously thought. Although Castro is ailing and won’t admit it, (that reminds me, I’ve got to finish my Disneyland Cuba post) the Cuban Missile Crisis was determined by the American and Soviet ambassadors playing a best of seven RPS game. Although both Kennedy and Khrushchev took the secret to their grave, it’s now known that America needed the seventh and final game for the win. Ditto with the falling of the Berlin Wall, although most scholars believe Gorbachev threw the match because he wanted the wall down anyway. Back in 2000, the Republicans made an offer to the Democrats to settle the election by RPS but by the time they made the offer, America was already caught up in the differences between a hanging chad and a dimpled chad. My friend dated a dimpled Chad once, but that’s pretty inconsequential. Our Founding Fathers used an older version of RPS – rocks, paper, shears – to determine whether to call our nation The United States of America or These Colonies Rock. It should be no surprise that Ben Franklin was the one who nominated These Colonies Rock. Something else historians won’t tell you is that if it had not been for a badly played ‘paper,’ Wilbur Hempshaw would have been the first man on the moon instead of Neil Armstrong.

I’m still not completely up on the rules of RPS, but I think rock beats everything. Doesn’t it? Although in the real world, you could do a lot more damage and get a lot more credibility waving a pair of scissors around than you would with a rock. If you’re the dude holding up a piece of paper in the real world, it had better say ‘I am holding a small poorly constructed nuclear device,’ because no one is going to give the guy waving a piece of paper around much of a chance.

RPS is a great idea for folks to use in resolving simple conflicts, but as we progress further into the 21st century, maybe it’s time we update RPS. The rock should be replaced by a Lucite sphere paperweight, the paper should be replaced by a Palm Pilot and the scissors should be replaced by a Ginsu knife; after all they can cut through anything. This will help future generations better understand the dimensions of the game. Don’t worry; we’ll still call it RPS instead of LPG.

As for the winner of the RPS tournament, I’m really not sure. Last I heard, it was going smoothly until about round seven. Apparently, there was a pretty big disagreement about paper vs. rock and the timing of when the paper signal was presented. When the ref tried to settle the disagreement by using RPS himself, one of the competitors became enraged, took to fisticuffs and in an odd twist of fate, the tournament ended in a brawl. Ok, yeah, I made that up...

Monday, November 13, 2006

R-E-S-P-E-C-T – That’s What Work Means To Me

As you may remember, I wrote a week or so ago about my caring employer’s tips on how to avoid getting sick. Unfortunately, they didn’t tip me off on how to avoid getting sick of work, only getting sick at work. Oh well, they’ve moved on (although it’s obvious I haven’t) and are now concerned about me and my coworkers having a respectful, discrimination and insult free workplace. Woo Hoo! As all my coworkers know, we never have enough work to do and thus are always gathering in small groups to figure out how to make our workplace friendlier.

Truth be told, we’re a pretty rough and sarcastic group and nothing is free from harassment or teasing. If you don’t believe me, read any of my ‘Things I Learned This Week’ stories. I just finished the online ‘Respect’ course and let’s say it’s a good thing our HR folks don’t spend much time in our field office. I was going to get major kudos for actually taking notes, until I responded, “Oh man, oh man, oh man, this is great blogging material. I can’t wait to get home!” Unfortunately, whether it was because I became distracted by my copious note taking, or because I am often inappropriate at my workplace, I got every question wrong. Let’s just say every answer was to consult with someone in HR if you have a problem with a coworker. And I mean every answer (you’d think I would have caught on after the 10th question).

However, from pain comes wisdom because I ended up learning a few things. I didn’t know that we should go to our HR department for our workplace respect concerns, I just thought I was supposed to keep it bottled inside until I have a breakdown or do the exact opposite and tell all of my coworkers through a detailed and personal email while cc’ing everyone I can think of. Nope! I didn’t realize that nicknames were not appropriate in the workplace either. It’s a shame too, because we have developed so many of them. We have names like Super Sensitive Guy, The New Guy, Natural Gas Powered Car Guy, Go Fly A Kit Guy, Smokey, etc. Besides, all of our real names are posted outside of our cubicles, so it’s not like there’s any confusion as to who is who. The way I see it, the nicknames just break up the day-to-day monotony of it all.

Then I continued with the course only to discover that teasing, tickling and pinching are considered out of line. Really? Since when has tickling every hurt anyone, especially when we’re all together, like in a staff meeting? Supposedly saying things like babe, chick and hunk are now out of the question too. The online course didn’t specifically mention dude, super babe, moron or jackass so they are presumably still in play. Unless those are considered nicknames and fall under the no nickname rule? I’m not sure; maybe I’ll try them out tomorrow and see how it goes. I was #!@$#!@ shocked and appalled to learn that profanity is not encouraged, well actually kinda forbidden, in the workplace. That could be a problem since I have yet to hear anyone in my office utter “Golly Gee Willickers” or “Dang Gummit” when they become frustrated.

For me personally, there was one item in the course that will lead to a complete philosophical change. My employer has advised that the determination of whether or not a joke is funny should be made by the person receiving the joke and not by the person telling it. Well that’s just not fair! We can’t help it if there are people in our office or who may come into our office who don’t possess the genetic coding required to have a sense of humor. If someone tells a joke in an office and no one laughs, is it still funny? Heck yeah, that’s why someone told it in the first place! Will we have to begin every joke we tell from now on with a disclaimer revealing the punch line so that the joke’s recipient can determine whether it’s funny before we tell it? I don’t know, but since I have a question about it, I’ve already learned (10 times to be exact) that I’ll have to go consult someone in HR.

Well, there’s the low down on my employer’s online ‘Respect in the Workplace’ course. That’s 12 minutes and 43 seconds I’ll never get back. I couldn’t help but think of Michael Scott on NBC’s “The Office” while taking this course. When we all have our required meeting to discuss the course’s content (and presumably make fun of the course itself while tickling and teasing each other), hopefully an episode of “The Office” will be required viewing as a how-not-to-do video. We have a motto in our office: Think about what Michael Scott would do and then do the exact opposite.

The best part of all of this though was the fact that I did not see the word ‘blog’ anywhere throughout the course. That means my employer values me enough to give me goofy ideas on how to avoid getting sick, how not to offend those I work with and what to do to make a respectful office environment AND I get to blog about it. Boy this company sure is great! Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to go ask 1970s Sport Coat Guy a quick question.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Repost Sunday: Airlines Say Save Money, Fly Dumpster Class

I rerun some of my older posts on Sundays as a way to highlight stories that you may have missed. Just think of it as 'thought recycling' and a day off, or that I am incredibly, incredibly lazy. This was originally posted August 22, 2006.

You’ve probably heard this by now, but to help the employees that it just took a 40% pay cut from, Northwest Airlines sent its employees tips on saving money.

Now on the surface, providing their workers ways to save money seems like a wonderful thing to do. One might also think that the airline is looking after its people. It’s when you go beneath the surface that Northwest’s tactics start to look a little odd. I’m sure the company never intended its tip sheets, part of a much larger book on dealing with pay reduction created by a separate vendor, to end up on the Wondernet (as I now call it because it provides wonderful stories such as this).

But the fact is the tip sheet did end up online and now I get to share it with you. Some of the tips provided to Northwest’s employees are: air-drying clothes, taking in renters, changing your own oil, asking family and friends for hand-me-downs and replacing kitty litter with shredded newspaper (which I actually thought was better for cats anyway, but that’s certainly not the point here). However, the tip that received the most attention basically urges employees to take what they want out of the trash. That of course is better known as dumpster diving.

I don’t know what it’s like in your neck of the woods, but the pickings are pretty slim in dumpsters here in Southern California. Oh sure you might occasionally find a new pair of high heels that fit perfectly with your flight attendant dress or a brand new plasma TV, but that’s certainly the exception, not the rule.

Fortunately the originally planned tip sheet did not get leaked. Some of the suggested tips in it were:

Sell your lawnmower and save gas by borrowing a herd of grazing animals to trim your lawn

Give yourself a hair cut with scissors and a large bowl (it worked for the Beatles)

Forget the expensive meal for your anniversary, dress up in your best hand me downs and sit by candlelight behind the expensive restaurant waiting for scraps

Eat smaller main meals, collect food giveaways from other national airlines that have not filed for bankruptcy, and use them to supplement the meals

Things are bad enough when your company files for Chapter 11 and you have to take huge cuts in pay from your employees. It’s even worse when you feel you need to give them tips on saving money because you can’t pay them enough. But seriously, I want to meet the folks sitting in the think tank somewhere that thought a good, dignified money saving solution was dumpster diving. I’m pretty confident that I know how most of Northwest’s employees will respond to the tip sheet. In the words of the famous David Spade/Helen Hunt Saturday Night Live flight attendant sketch: Buh Bye Now…I said--- Buh---Bye---Now.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Things I Learned This Week: 11/11/06

Because I want to spare you from experiencing some of the things I endured over the last few days, I post “Things I Learned This Week” each Saturday. It’s educational, sometimes insightful and always pathetic. I hope that at least one item on this list will make your upcoming week much easier. As you'll be able to tell from this week's list, I hit a few speed bumps at work again. So here are the “Things I Learned This Week” for the week of 11/5/06-11/11/06.

! I learned that when my card is stamped by the time clock of life that I might be headed a little south of Heaven. And here’s why: at a quirky Italian restaurant with some friends the other night, I was walking towards our table when I stopped and noticed a huge picture of Frank Sinatra inside a sort of shrine to him. When I saw it, I immediately knelt down and genuflected. Oops. Pray for me by blogging brothers and sisters…

! I learned that if I want to be so bold as to suggest a fine eating establishment for our office’s Christmas party/dinner, I’d better be darn sure ready to take the lead and plan the whole thing. I guess that means both Hooters and McDonalds are out…

! I learned that when my female coworker says that her son’s boss keeps talking about how hot he thinks she is, I shouldn’t ask her “has he seen you,” when what I really mean is “has he met you or does he joke like that with all of his employees?” It would not have been so bad if she hadn’t told the entire office. Fifteen times!

! I learned that when I am talking to the same female coworker and I tell her that my family is having a Christmas open house, I should not say, “you might be invited” when what I mean to say is “if we can invite coworkers you will be invited.” Unfortunately this incident and the one above only happened about an hour apart so female coworker is a little bent with me.

! I learned that although I am filled with enough patriotic pride to hum “The Star Spangled Banner” while voting, that not everyone else is and they might not appreciate my ‘mood music’ as much as I do. Those communist fools!!

! I learned that when taking Lucy and Ethel to a birthday party at “The Bounce House” for their school friend that all of the other kids there may not appreciate me bouncing, going down the slide and swinging on the suspended rope inside the gigantic arctic themed bounce house as much as I appreciate it. Those communist fools!!

And lastly…

! I learned not to take it too personally when I show up at a gathering of good friends who I haven’t seen in a while and they see me and say, “Michael’s here. We’ve got to be careful what we talk about or it might end up on his blog.” Now really, does that sound like something I would do? Those communist fools!!

**Author’s Disclaimer – I do not think anyone mentioned above is either a communist or a fool. I just thought it sounded funny, especially when you pound your fist on the desk while saying it. Seriously, try it.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Truly Nothing Worthwhile

I have been beating my head against a padded cubicle wall all day to find inspiration to make fun of; um I mean write about today. Perhaps the repeated soft and spongy beatings to the noggin are why it was so hard for me to think of something? At any rate, in great vain I attempted musings on:

Frank Sinatra – one cool cat and what I had on in the office for most of the day
Instant Grits and nachos – what I had for lunch, which is now the inspiration for all of the green that you are seeing, if you get my drift...
The online “office respect” course I need to take for work - I’ll probably really write about this one after I finish the course ---actually I know I will!
The fact that today is the birthday of Sesame Street – sunny days…
The Easy Bake Oven getting inducted into the toy hall of fame – don’t the plastic fake muffins melt inside?

Unfortunately none of those ideas really stuck with or struck me. I guess my well of worthwhileness is wiped out for the week, whew. Then I realized there is nothing wrong with me posting about nothing worthwhile since that’s what this waste of Blogger's server space is all about any way. So without further ado, I present to you…

Yep my friends, nothing at all (in written form as well as "MonoSnow" and "Deluxacolor" graphical representation, too). It's pretty sad really because putting together all this junk took me as long as doing a regular post. Boy did I learn my lesson...

Thursday, November 09, 2006

What's That Sharp Pain I Feel? Oh, It’s Just Metal.

The Associated Press is reporting that a major acetaminophen maker is recalling 11 million bottles of painkillers sold in places like CVS and Wal-Mart. The recall is for pieces of metal that have been found in some of the pills. It is believed that the metal is coming from the manufacturing equipment used to make the pills.

Hopefully the same manufacturer of this manufacturing equipment does not manufacture hot dog manufacturing devices (can you manufacture something that manufactures – maybe I should use the word ‘make’ instead). If they do, who knows what would end up in our hot dogs, although who really knows what ends up in them now?

This is really a great idea when you think about it - combining a pain reliever and shards of metal. Taking it for the acetaminophen helps the pain go away and taking it for the metal shards leads to pain somewhere else, which provides a diversion until the acetaminophen kicks in. Oh the many days I have writhed in agony with a migraine or some other horrible pain waiting for my aspirin to kick in. I could have just taken the recalled painkillers and focused on searing stomach pain and internal bleeding during that time instead.

I hear that the manufacturer may stop the recall and re-brand the product for distribution. They are currently leading towards the names Cut-enol, Sharp-enol or Metalcillin. It reminds me of the SNL episode where Dan Akroyd tried to market Bag-O-Nails for a Christmas present but was strongly criticized for it by Candace Bergen. Boy, those were the days. It also reminds me of the times when you could play lawn darts with what was essentially a small hand propelled metal missile. Ah, I remember the hours that my brother and I would stand in the backyard dodging the lawn darts we would throw at one another…

Now I’m no doctor, heck I haven’t even played one on TV, but in my view, taking this product might also help with other health issues. Surely, pieces of metal flowing through the bloodstream would help break down arterial clots, provided of course it didn’t tear the artery or vein to pieces first. If the metal ends up in the stomach, it becomes the perfect dietary supplement. Would you feel like eating with lots of little cuts in your belly? Would you even be able to? Would lots of stomach cuts equate to an ulcer? I’d better stop asking questions or I’ll ruin my argument. Rest assured though, if you’ve never felt a ‘sharp pain’ before, you will after taking this stuff.

So many of life’s greatest inventions have been the direct or indirect result of an accident. A few of them have been in the medical field like penicillin or the X-Ray (which, incidentally for your Cliff Claven useless trivia of the day, celebrated its anniversary yesterday). It looks like metal-based pain killers might be added to that list soon. As great a development as acetaminophen fortified with pieces of metal might be, one thing is for sure. Older men everywhere are hoping this same pharmaceutical company doesn’t produce E.D. pills. OUCH! I can sense men everywhere collectively crossing their legs and cringing at the thought of it…

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

It’s A Dang Good Thing There Was An Election Yesterday

No, this won’t be a political post, and it certainly won’t be worthwhile. Some major, major news stories broke yesterday that we would have had to read or hear way too much about had there not been an election yesterday. The election served as a ‘firewall’ to spare us from the other ‘big’ news of the day yesterday, to use the same parlance that all the election pundits keep using last night.

What were the big news stories you ask? Well, let’s just say that had they occurred any other day, it would be the news equivalent of having a stock market crash and a Presidential resignation on the same day. First, Faith Hill reacts in a supposed ‘unprofessional’ way when learning she did not win a CMA Award Monday night and then we learn that Britney Spears is divorcing K-Mart or K-Y or Fed Ex, sorry his name escapes me at the moment.

As they do with all awards shows, each nominee had a camera on her when it came time to read the winner for the Country Music Association’s Female Vocalist of the Year. By the way, in case you aren’t familiar with them, the CMAs are the Nobel prizes of country music, or at least the blue ribbon awards. When former American Idol Carrie Underwood’s name was called, Faith Hill clearly said “what” while throwing her hands up. Unfortunately, it was caught and aired nationally. As the entertainment press and country music morning DJ’s pondered it yesterday, there was an apology by Faith saying it was a joke. Of course had it not been Election Day, we’d probably still be talking about it. Now granted, I’m still writing about it, but I always write a day behind. If it was a joke, it kind of bombed. How could you not expect that to look bad when you ‘joke’ about being a bad loser? I equate it to making a death joke about the deceased while talking to their loved ones at their funeral. It if was her publicist’s idea, Mr. Or Mrs. Faith Hill Publicist is probably hiding under his or her desk today.

One can only imagine how that phone call went (in honor of Bob Newhart, I present my best Bob Newhart phone sketch impression of the conversation between Faith and her publicist).

“Ok Faith, CD sales have been lagging a little lately…Well no, it really wasn’t that great…No I guess I did forget to tell you that, sorry…Here’s what we need you to do…We’ve test marketed this and we think it’ll be huge…With who? A couple of retirees in Branson, Missouri…Yes, they really liked the idea…Forget the gracious damsel bit, it’s time to get gritty…Um, no, you won’t get an Oscar for it…Well, reality TV is through the roof and fans want to see the real deal…No, I didn’t see America’s Next Top Model last night…What we need you to do is act mad, throw a fit and look disappointed…Yes, I said throw a fit…Yes, I promise it’ll get you some press…Yes, of course I’ll send a statement saying it was a joke…Yeah, I think we can get you on Oprah to explain…No Faith, I don’t think you should jump on her couch during the taping…”

Maybe it’s time to stop putting the camera on the nominees prior to the opening of the envelope and the announcement of the winner. Having to maintain such a ridiculously fake smile for that one moment alone (and more if you’re a multiple nominee) probably leads to the need for plastic surgery more than anything else. Better yet, maybe we can do away with televised awards shows altogether and put the air time towards something better, like three straight hours of lawyers doing stand up or something. Now that’s entertainment!

The other big news item that was overshadowed by the election was Britney’s divorce filing. Wow, sure didn’t see that coming. They just had a baby and she was on Letterman Monday night and seemed so happy. Now we’ll just have to put them on the divorce side of history’s celebrity marriage ledger along with Burt and Lonnie; Billy Joel and Christie Brinkley; Lisa Marie Presley and Michael Jackson and Sinatra and Ava Gardner. At least Sinatra’s tumultuous marriage and divorce resulted in some of the greatest torch/saloon songs ever. I just can’t imagine Britney or Kevin Federline crooning “In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning” or “One For My Baby” though.

Why can’t celebrity marriages last like Danny DeVito’s and Rhea Pearlman’s or Bill Cosby’s and Phyllicia Rashaad’s? Oh, Bill and Phyllicia weren’t married? Are you sure? She played his wife on two different shows. I thought you had to be married to do that! Next, you’ll tell me that Ozzie and Harriet Nelson weren’t married!

We must all be getting older when in this one year alone, we’ve outlived both Jessica Simpson’s and Britney’s marriages. At least we can take solace in that.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Dona Nobis Pacem - Grant Us Peace

Mimi at Mimi Writes designated today as a day of Peace. Bloggers all over the world are sharing their personalized peace globes (I could not resist using the Peanuts font for mine) and a few thoughts about peace. It’s not the type of thing I normally write about here, but it’s for a very good reason, so here’s a ‘peace’ of my mind about, well, peace…

My introduction to the idea of peace as a kid in the 80s was John Lennon’s ‘Give Peace a Chance’ and iconic images of the 60s hippy movement. As I’ve gotten a little older, I realize there’s so much more to it. We need global peace, but as with liking one’s self, we need to have peace as a nation before we can pursue peace as a world. Of course, before we can have peace as a nation, we need to have peace with those around us everyday. For me, peace is a lot of things, some of which start with very small gestures.

The way I see it, peace can start with the little things like how we treat each other every day. It can be forgiving the coworker, classmate or neighbor that we feel may have done us wrong. Peace can also be going the next step and doing something to help or assist the person we feel has wronged us. Peace can begin with smiling or saying hello to a stranger on the street. My wife often laughs about my attempts at this small gesture of peace. She says that when I see someone coming towards me I will stare and smile at them until they smile back. Unfortunately, more often than not, the smile is not returned.

Peace can also start with doing the unusual and unexpected like paying for the elderly couple’s meal in the car behind you in the drive-thru or sending an anonymous check or cash to someone who needs it during the holidays. My wife and I were the recipient of this one Christmas and I’ve never forgotten it. What the person receiving the small gesture of peace chooses to do after receiving it is out of our control, but at least we are doing our part to be the change we want to see in the world (I wish I knew who to attribute that quote to, but unfortunately, I don’t). There is a gentleman I work with who I admire a lot more than he might think (hopefully today is the ONE day he won’t be reading this blog). Whenever I start to complain about something, he asks me the same question, ‘why are we all here?’ The answer: to help each other, which is a big step towards peace the way I see it.

Just as you can’t like others without liking yourself first, I think you have to have some form of inner peace before working on peace in a broader way. I think many people may feel happiness or contentment about life, but I don’t think that’s exactly inner peace (although I guess it’s really not my place to say since inner peace is experienced differently for everyone). I was able to experience inner peace for myself last year during the long night before my open-heart surgery. I don’t know why I even tried to sleep that night but I did. As the night went on, I began to feel more and more at peace with the life I had lived and whatever was about to happen. By the time we needed to walk over to the hospital, I could honestly say that I, like Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump, had made my peace with God (and myself). That night and in the last few moments before I was put under for surgery, I had inner peace and it was a wonderful feeling. Of course, when I woke up from surgery hours later with tubes down my throat, groggy and in a lot of pain, any memory of my inner peace was long gone, but like I always say, that’s an entirely different story. If nothing else, I know that I was able to achieve inner peace at least once. Now I just have to figure out how to get back to that state…

Our world and each person in it need and deserve to experience peace. I know it’s a lofty thought, but wouldn’t it be nice if it could happen just once. I bet that if it happened just once though, no one would ever want to go back to the way things were before. It sounds quite cliché, but although everyone on this blue dot in the vastness of space may look slightly different, we are all made the same and have the same things working on the inside to keep us alive. Those things of course are our brains and our hearts. The time is long overdue for us to use both of them with everyone we come into contact with. We all need to remember that none of us were placed here to hate anyone and we need to start acting like it. Peace to all of you today and everyday!

I'll go back to writing about nothing worthwhile tomorrow...