Monday, April 25, 2011

Here's How You Can Tell

Here's how you can tell if you've gained at least a semblance of maturity.  You bring a potato casserole to a large and important family event and realize only after you've taken your first bite that the one thing you forgot to do is cook the thing completely.
Trust me.  A mixture of raw potatoes, raw onions and seasonings doesn't taste too good raw.
Not surprisingly, no one ate it.
Surprisingly, I laughed.
Sometimes life reaches the point where the only sensible thing to do is laugh.
That's when you know you've been around the block a few times.
And that's when a bunch of really neat and amazing people say, "Welcome to the club."

The Royal What?

I'm curious whether everyone has had a chance to check out the seating chart for the Royal Wedding? I was really excited until I saw that they have me wedged between Gary Busey and Flo, the Progressive Insurance girl. I actually do plan to set my alarm for 3:00am on Friday, just so I can wake up, remember how much I absolutely couldn't care less, and go back to sleep to show my total disinterest.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Happy Birthday, Bill

William Shakespeare

Born April 26, 1564

Died April 23, 1616

No more need be said.

Another Idea Whose Time Has Come

Here's another one of those, "I can't believe nobody has thought of this" ideas. Sitting in traffic last night, slowly creeping past a fender-bender on the freeway, watching the two people stand there angrily shouting and gesturing, it hit me like a bolt of lightning: What if car bumpers were filled with candy, so if you got in an accident, it exploded like a piƱata. "Sorry 'bout your bumper. But, look, free candy!"

Thursday, April 21, 2011

With A Toy Inside, No Doubt

They’re remaking “Time Bandits” as a kids’ movie. Because, naturally, the first thing we think of when we meditate upon a nihilistic fantasy involving time traveling dwarfs, the Supreme Being, the incarnation of evil, the inevitable flaws in a clockwork universe, and the realization that the universe is run by a dictator whose plan includes murdering your parents is what a great Happy Meal theme this will make.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Truth in Advertising

So there I was at a conference held at a Beverly Hills Hotel.  Like any good hotel, there's a restaurant inside and I'm thinking the food is probably pretty good.  I didn't eat there, though.  Here's why.

While I appreciate the hotel's honesty, I'm wondering if the reason the dining room seemed always empty each time I passed by might have something to do with their commitment to the truth.

On the other hand, really, would you want to eat there?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Stop The Music, Please

I just want to point out that 99 years ago today, April 15th, 1912, the "unsinkable" Titanic chose to hit an iceberg and sink, claiming the lives of 1,517 people, rather than spend another day listening to Celine Dion.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Requiem for the Truth

Just when I think Arizona politicians can't get any stupider, along comes Jon Kyl. As you may know, Kyl is one of Arizona's two Republican U.S. senators. The other, John McCain, propelled Sarah Palin to national prominence as his vice presidential running mate. Just when you think Arizona politicians can't get any stupider. 

Kyl recently achieved national prominence himself, as the butt of a running joke on Twitter touched off by Stephen Colbert of Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report." During the debate over the federal budget last week, Kyl decided to do a little grandstanding and declared that "well over 90 percent of what Planned Parenthood does" is provide abortions. Well, that misses the mark by a wide margin. In reality, Planned Parenthood spends about 3 percent of its money on abortions, and by federal law can use no tax dollars on them. The rest of Planned Parenthood's effort goes to such devious programs as health care and family planning services. 

In other words, Kyl lied. Flat-out lied. Lying is nothing new in politics, of course. However, some politicians like Kyl aren't smart enough to know how to play the game. 

When called on it, his office tried to circle around the fact of the bald-faced lie by saying Kyl's assertion was "not intended to be a factual statement." What was it intended to be? Well, it was intended to be a soundbite playing to tea partiers and bombastic talk radio hosts. Saying that would have been a bit too honest, though. 

So all Kyl could do was wait for Stephen Colbert to launch his Twitter feed, #NotIntendedToBeAFactualStatement, in which members of the public are invited to submit their own statements about Kyl that aren't intended to be factual. 

Omigosh, have they ever responded. Some examples: "Once a year, Jon Kyl retreats to the Arizona desert and deposits 2 million egg sacs under the sand." Or "Jon Kyl thinks no one can see him when he puts a paper bag on his head." Or "Republicans are nice people." My contribution: "Jon Kyl is a form of life that went extinct many thousands of years ago -- oh wait, that is the truth." 

I hope you'll visit Twitter and post your own statement that isn't intended to be factual. There's one fact that is true, though. If we (and by we, I mean all of us -- Democrats, Republicans, Tea Party members and all) don't stop tolerating the kind of untruth that Kyl practiced, we could become the victims of our own rhetoric. We may lose the sight of what really is true, and what really matters. Truth matters. Always has, always will.

The Human Capacity For Discomfort

First, an update on Saturday evening's flight out of New York City.  Despite the fact that the plane's departure was delayed by the late arrival of the plane needed for the flight to Burbank and despite the ability of those on stand by to claim seats, the middle seat in my row remained empty which is clearly one of life's miracles.  So, Jet Blue pulls through on my behalf again.
Here's the thing, though.  I really like Jet Blue but even my love of that airline fails to make the flight from New York City to Burbank anything but long to the point of seeming unending.  Next time you are on a long flight which goes into the night, wait three or four hours and then take a walk to the back of the plane.
If you see one person looking anything less than completely miserable, please let me know.
And yet, despite our collective misery, we remain in our seats, we appreciate the snacks, and we endure.
So here's my question.  What is our capacity for enduring discomfort?
Okay, I get it.  We expect the flight from New York to Burbank to be less than comfortable.  We are, apparently, willing to pay the price of discomfort in exchange for a quick (compared to other modes of transportation) trip across the country.
The bigger issue is how much misery or discomfort are we willing to endure before we say something along the lines of 'enough stop it' when the misery is dwindling resources for social programs or drowning polar bears because their ice is melting or rising prices for gasoline or political corruption or hungry children or  or or or....surely you see where I'm headed here.
The question right now is rhetorical but I think it's an essential question that deserves serious consideration.
How much is too much?
If you have an answer, let us know.  If you don't have an answer, welcome to the club.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Here's A Good Plan

In what I am not ashamed to call a stroke of genius (or, more truthfully, in preparation for the dementia I'm sure is lurking around the corner), I just decided to change all my passwords to "incorrect." This way, when I forget it, my computer will keep reminding me until I remember.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

What have they done with the news?

The day of do-it-yourself news has arrived. This is bad news for me. I'm not just a fan of newspapers, I'm a former reporter and editor with nearly 30 years of newspaper work, including the Arizona Daily Star.

When I worked there, the Star was Tucson's morning paper. Now, since the death of the afternoon Tucson Citizen, it's our city's only daily newspaper. That's part of the problem. Before, if the Star missed a story, the Citizen probably would cover it, or vice versa.

Which brings me to the story I want to tell.

On the evening of April 1, a man tried to hold up a Walgreen's drugstore. Apparently the robbery didn't go well, because it ended with the man racing in his car down West Ina Road with sheriff's deputies in hot pursuit.

At the interection of Ina Road and North La Canada Drive, the botched robbery took an even worse turn. The suspect blasted through the intersection and crashed into a car. The T-boned car went spinning out of control, its accelerator apparently stuck. Then it jumped the curb on the west side of La Canada and plowed into the garage of a house on West Cerrada Vera Cruz.

It didn't just run into the garage -- it went clear through the structure, coming to rest in a mangled wreck in the front yard of the house. There were three people inside the car. Amazingly, they all got out, although one later died.

Firemen and paramedics were on the scene within minutes, putting out the smoldering wreck and treating the victims. Deputies caught the robbery suspect a few miles south of the scene, when his car finally gave out. He's now in jail facing a murder charge.

Needless to say, this was an unusual event in the normally quiet townhouse complex where I live. Many of my neighbors and their dogs gathered across the street from the crash scene that night, wondering how this could happen.

The Pima County Department of Transportation drew a lot of blame for refusing to build a barrier wall between the road and the townhouse complex during the ongoing project to widen La Canada to four lanes. Because of the distance between the roadway and the homes, such a wall was unwarranted, the county has maintained.

If nothing else, the events of April 1 may have proven the county wrong on that point.

But this is a story about news coverage, not roads. And if a bizarre chain of events that caused a car to run through a home, put three people in the hospital and one in jail, and jam up a major intersection for hours isn't news, I don't know what is.

At 10 p.m. that night, KOLD-TV's Channel 13 News reported the accident, with video of the wreckage. I was anxious to see a more detailed report in the Star next morning. Except it never happened.

I have yet to see a word in the Star about the event. Not even when one of the victims died and the charges against the perpetrator were upgraded to murder. Nothing.

There was a shooting that same night in which a teen was killed, and that undoubtedly diverted the time and attention of the Star's cop reporter. But there have been ample opportunities for follow-up, second-day coverage.

I'm not a credentialed news reporter anymore. I don't have the time or access to the police reports or court documents needed to report this story fully. Until now, I've believed I could count on the paid staff of the Star to do that kind of work.

Now, I'm seriously wondering if I need a newspaper anymore to get me started in the morning. Other than "Pearls Before Swine" and David Fitzsimmons' editorial cartoon, what would I be missing?

The Best Budget Plan Ever

I have an idea. If, in another week, we find ourselves again facing a government shut down, I say let it take place. Then, bring our troops home. After the last of the soldiers arrives safely home, deploy the politicians. They'd be the only ones getting paid, so let THEM leave their families and put their lives at risk every day. If we only threatened this possibility, I bet we'd have a balanced budget in no time.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Jet Blueing It Again

So here I am at my own personal Disneyland -- Terminal 5 at John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City -- the Jet Blue Terminal.  This trip I moved one up on the frequent traveler evolutionary ladder.  Instead of taking a taxi for, oh, sixty dollars plus tip for a one way ride into the city or from the city back to the airport I took public transportation for about fifteen dollars round trip total.  Coming in I took the E into midtown.  The only thing I would do over is taking it all the way to the World Trade Center Path connection.  I don't know.  I thought getting off at Penn Station would be simpler.  Ha!  Anyway today I took the A from the World Trade Center to Howard Beach and then right to Terminal 5.  So here I am on time.  However, the plane on which I hope to fly to Burbank is not -- on time.  That's okay.  Aside from wanting to get home, I'm good.  I've got high speed Internet and an outlet right in front of me.  I'm already eating the snacks I got for the flight home but that's okay.  What with the money I saved on cab fare I could eat here for about a week.  Here's the problem.  The flight is delayed.  That gives the airline staff time to round up all of the standby passengers and fill the plane.  As of this morning when I printed my boarding pass I had a window seat with the middle seat empty.  I can't see that seat staying empty.  Oh, well.  Not even Jet Blue is perfect.

Seriously, What Was The Plan?

I have long suspected that I may have some sort of dual personality issues. However, it now seems as though I might have miscalculated by a factor of one. I now believe I actually have three personalities. The way I see it, I have one that has a carefully prepared plan, one that completely screws up the plan, and one that shows up a short time later and very irately demands, "What the hell happened to the plan?"

Thursday, April 7, 2011

A Day Generationally Special

My grandmother Jesse who I never met because the Spanish flu epidemic called her its own when she was twenty-six years old gave birth to my Aunt Thelma on April 7.  I gave birth to my daughter who I named after the grandmother I never met also on April 7 many years later.  I get it that millions of other people were also born on this seventh day of April but it's nice to know that my grandmother and I share the amazing experience of giving birth to a daughter.
Happy birthday.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Welcome to Bradford Bartholomew Bratwurst

Between August and December, we lost three valued four-legged members of our household; two feline and one canine. Cats are now out of the picture due to a family member's allergies, but we always knew we'd have more dogs. We just didn't know who. Now we do.

Yesterday, we brought home Bradford Bartholomew Bratwurst. He is a purebred basset hound. His previous human was unable to keep him and he needed a home. We needed a dog. He is friendly, polite, funny and utterly adorable. Welcome home, Bradford.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

No Stamps, Apparently

The line at the Post Office annex was long.  I needed to mail tax stuff so the wait had to be endured.  The first person in line -- the person at the window -- appeared to be mailing several different packages to several different countries.  And I waited.  The next person line asked for one first class stamp.
"We have no stamps," said the Post Office clerk.
Without comment the man turned and left Post Office.  The next person stepped to the window and asked for a book of stamps.
"We're all out of stamps," came the reply.
This beyond belief response did not deter the next three almost but not quite customers.  Each in turn stepped to the window and asked for stamps and each received the unbelievable response that the Post Office or at least this little annex was out of stamps.
Finally a man stepped to the window and asked a different question.
"Isn't this the Post Office?"
"Yes," came the clerk's suspicious reply.
"Don't you sell stamps?  Isn't that what you do?"
"We're out of stamps," said the clerk.
Apparently the man, having asked the question differently, expected a different answer.  He had no response and having no response simply turned and walked out of the building.
My turn came and the first words out of my mouth were, "I don't want any stamps."
The relieved clerk weighed my envelopes, metered the postage and wished me a good day.
I seemed unable to resist one final comment, though.
"You are the post office, you know."
"Yes," said the clerk.  "And we're still out of stamps."

Monday, April 4, 2011

Compared To The National Average

I have conducted a somewhat informal study while sitting in gridlock (which was probably caused by a leaf blowing onto the freeway - very unnerving to Las Vegas drivers) on my way to work this morning, and came to a startling conclusion: The conventions of polite behavior have slipped so low in American society, that roughly 15% of women pick their noses while stuck in traffic (the figure for men remains steady at 100%).

Sunday, April 3, 2011

It Just Never Hurts To Ask

We left the hotel before breakfast and got off the I-5 in San Clemente.  "We'll just fine some sort of chain thing and get some eggs," we assured each other.  No problem.  The 5 is dotted with them.  Not eggs but chain things although sometimes it has been dotted with eggs.  But I wander from the topic. Also, we thought but only later dared to say out loud, that maybe we'll eat someplace that Richard Nixon used to eat at and that wouldn't be so bad because looking back at the Bush Eight Years Nixon is beginning to seem at least not so bad.
But I stray from the point yet again.  We needed two things.  A place to eat and a Bank of America so we could get some money to buy breakfast.  We saw a place called Pat's or Mike's or Leo's Lunch Stop or something along those not too terribly inviting lines.  There was street parking so we parked.  The fact that the Lunch Stop something or other advertised a drive through window didn't exactly assure us we would have a good breakfast but what, we wondered, can really go wrong with eggs.
First to the Bank of America where one of us not me had the courage and the insight to ask a person in the line to recommend a place for breakfast.  The recommendation was not Lunch Stop something or other but was, instead, Antoine's Cafe which was just across the street.  Off we went without even looking back at the Lunch Stop something or other.
Later we could only declare that we would have driven to San Clemente from Los Angeles for no other reason that to eat breakfast at Antoine's Cafe.
The lesson learned besides eat at Antoine's Cafe?  Sometimes the person in line in front of you knows a thing or two about local stuff.  Especially if his name is Antoine.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Rock Vision

When we decided to take a hike it was primarily to stretch legs and move about after two days sitting in conference rooms at tables on straight back chairs.  Off we went on a paved path with no idea or concern about where the path led.  It led to a putting green.  End of that walk.  Off we went on the next walk headed north on yet another seeming sidewalk past a golf course.  That sidewalk also stopped.  Of course, they generally do stop eventually.  Where that sidewalk stopped, though, was an old highway which then turned into a nature reserve with hiking paths all of which looked more difficult than we could manage.  Here's the thing.  We never know what we can manage until we give it a try. 
We managed quite well, thank you.  And what we saw were amazing bluffs and rock formations.  While stopping for the view, I met a huge rock with what appeared to be an eye.  I'm thinking not an all seeing eye because the rock (or boulder) had little mobility.  Nevertheless, in my story I met a rock with if not an all seeing eye at least an eye that took in quite a bit.  And the rock was looking right at me.  And I was looking right back at it.  We had a nice visit, the rock and I and I took its picture without saying smile or say cheese.  However, some other hikers asked me to take their picture.  They smiled.  That's why we don't confuse people with large boulders.
The cliffs above La Jolla.  That's where the rock lives.

Now, just so you know.  The picture above and to the left of this sentence is a view from the trail.  The picture to the right of these words is the rock with the not quite all seeing eye.  Look just below the green hair do and you can see what looks in the photograph like a dark spot.  Trust me.  It's the eye of the rock.  Perhaps the rock blinked just when the picture was taken.  That happens sometimes.
Now, I'm pretty sure the rock has a right eye but, of course, it couldn't be seen.
So here's what we learned from this hike.
We are tougher and in better shape than we thought.  That's the first thing.  If you hesitating on doing something, stop hesitating and just do it.
The second thing we learned is that storms aren't the only natural occurrences with an eye or two.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Just An Early April Fools' Day

I never expect checking into a hotel to be easy.  This, however, was beyond my normal range of complications.  Generally, in all honesty, the only misadventure I can count on is my key card never working on my door.  Never.  I live at the mercy of hotel staff.
So there we were in La Jolla for a conference.  We arrived Wednesday evening a little after ten.  Check in was slow and there were people in front of me.  Not a problem.  I practiced gratitude for all of the wonderful and beautiful sights around me.  Check in finally completed, I verified with the valet parking people that I could leave the old Jeep out front while I took luggage to the room.  So far so good.  Elevator down two floors from the lobby and right to the room.  No problem.  Key card worked.  Always a good sign.  Chain lock across the door we tried to open and male voice coming from inside the room -- well not exactly coming more specifically screaming -- Who's there.  What do you want.
Oh, our voices coming from somewhere within our startled selves.
And then the man appearing behind the door open only as far as the chain allowed.  He seemed to be in his underwear and shocked out of sleep.
"This is our room," we said somewhat stupidly because clearly it wasn't.  Nevertheless, we held up our key cards like shields in front of us.  The man stared at out shields with uncomprehending eyes.
Finally he stated the obvious, "This is my room."
He left the still partly open door and returned a moment later with his own check-in room number thing and his own key card.  Yep.  Same room number as the one we had.
Back to the lobby went we and to the check in counter.
"Someone else has our room," said I.  "Some guy in his underwear," I added as though that would add clarity to an already perplexing situation.
"How could that have happened?" asked the desk clerk.
I assumed his question was rhetorical.  Only later after things were sorted out and we were in our other room, the one not already occupied by a startled man in his underwear did I realize the answer to the once rhetorical question.
Sometimes April First comes a few days early.
And by the way, my key card to this room actually opens the door.
Things have a way of sorting themselves out.