Friday, April 30, 2010

To shave, or not to shave (a post about beards, not bards)


I think I was in Junior High when I shaved for the first time. Not that I needed to, mind you. I probably nicked more pimples than whiskers during that first shave. It just seemed such a rite of passage to me. Having facial hair meant I was a manly man. In retrospect, it just meant I would have to make a decision every day for the rest of my life whether to shave or not to shave.

I have made it very clear in many posts that I am not a fan of repetitive, mundane tasks like making the bed, mowing the lawn or changing my underwear. There is something very Sisyphean about shaving. Once you start, your only choices are to keep shaving or grow a beard. Most of my adult life I have chosen the latter. Now granted in my younger days it was fairly sparse and pitiful looking, but I grew it none the less.

I started with a mustache that pretty much looked like I'd stuck a false eyelash on my lip. By college I tried growing a full beard. And by "full beard" I mean I allowed the eyelash to multiply on my chin line. I cringe when I look at photos of my beard back then.

I gave up on the beard for a few years, cursing my DNA for not giving me the ability to grow a beard of ZZ Top proportions if I wanted to. I think it was some time in the late 80s or the early 90s that I jumped on the goatee bandwagon. I was starting to lose the thin face of my youth and I deluded myself that a goatee would help mask my double chin. Again, photos from that era proved just the opposite. I might as well painted a neon arrow on my chin pointing out the extra ones.

Finally, to mix it up, I just let my beard grow out. Aging may not have given me the ability to go full Grizzly Adams, but I could finally grow a beard that didn't totally look like moss on the north side of a tree. I kept the beard for several years, shaved it off briefly when I got married five years ago, then grew it back. A few months ago, I shaved it off again on impulse. Several weeks later, my daughter was sitting on my lap and asked me, "Daddy, what is wrong with your face?"

So last week I started growing my beard again. I had forgotten the awkward stages of growing a beard. You have to go through this period where people look at you as if you just stepped out of Skid Row and are going to harass them for spare change. I have to say I have made about $2.75 just walking from the train to work.

Last night when I got home from work, my daughter looked up at me and asked, "Daddy, what is wrong with your face, why are you not shaving?"  I just shook my head.

I have to admit that I feel more comfortable with a beard. Whether or not it hides my double chins, it is kind of like wearing a mask. I also like the feel of it. I like compulsively scratching my chin like Gabby Hayes and muttering, "Dag nab it." (Anyone under 50 will have to Google that reference) I like being in good company with great men throughout history who have sported beards like Lincoln, Van Gogh, Freud, Blackbeard the Pirate and Bluto from Popeye.

And best of all, I think my beard makes me look like that guy on the Dos Equis commercials who is billed as the most interesting man in the world.

Stay thirsty my friends.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Full moon over my hammies

I still get a kick out of knowing it is a full moon without seeing that it is a full moon. Living in the perpetually cloudy Pacific Northwest makes moon intuition even more important. Because in some months you never see the sky let alone the moon.

I sense the moon more through the behavior of others rather than myself. The crack heads and screamers on the streets in downtown Seattle seem more agitated and vocal than usual. Oh the scientists will tell you it is a myth that the moon affects behavior, but I base my belief on observation, not rote statistics. The nuts get nuttier when there is full moon. And the "normal" go nuts.

As an interesting side note, I can't find anything on the Internet explaining how the phrase, "going nuts" evolved into a synonym for going crazy. I suppose it has something to do with a nut being cracked open. And when a person's normal facade gets cracked open you get a glimpse of the nut inside. That's the best I can come up with because the phrase is a hard nut to crack.

I crack me up sometimes.

But I digress.

Does the moon really affect how we act? It makes sense to me that it could. Because if the gravitational pull of the moon can affect the ocean in the form of high and low tides, is it that much of a stretch that it could affect a creature who is largely made up of fluids? Couldn't the moon's gravity sucking on our brains trigger out of the ordinary behavior? Or am I pinning a bad rap on the big rock in the sky that is only noticeable because it reflects the light of the sun?

I know my kids have been acted moonstruck for the past few days. I came downstairs last night after putting my daughter to bed and immediately looked out the kitchen window to try and get a glimpse of the moon. Sure enough it was there grinning it's lunatic grin at me in almost its full glory as it literally mooned me. I didn't need any other explanation for why it took two hours to get her to fall asleep in between discussions of wanting ET to come visit her. She has never seen the movie. It had to be the full moon.

And speaking of odd behavior, you might be wondering what is the genesis of the image at the top of this post. Well, when I was thinking about how the moon triggers odd things, I wondered if this was the source of the werewolf myths (you know, full moon turning people bit by wolves into werewolves). Then I started wondering why there were just werewolves. Why weren't there other animals that people turn into at the full moon? Why not werecats, wererats, werecows or weresheep? And since hogs were still on my mind from yesterday's post, I started wondering why there weren't any werehogs or werepigs. That made me think about Denny's and their Moon Over My Hammies breakfast sandwich that I'm sure the makers of Lipitor and Crestor idolize.

I think you see where the image came from. Blame it on the full moon.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

His corn and his hogs

My father used to say things like, "Them's his corn and his hogs." I would generally just stare at him blankly and go back to watching television. If I thought about it at all, I just assumed he was saying that if your neighbor's hogs had gotten loose in his own corn field then it was basically his problem and not yours. I figured it was his own version of Voltaire's "cultivate your own garden" quote.

To this day, I really don't know if that is what my father really meant when he said "Them's his corn and his hogs." I do catch myself interjecting it into conversations now and then just to enjoy the blank stares and puzzled looks.

But knowing that Google knows everything, I Googled the phrase expecting to get page after page explaining the origins of the idiom. And near as I can figure, the idiom doesn't exist. Which leaves me with this amazing revelation that, in a world where there isn't any original thought, my father had one. Or he was just messing with my mind.

I did discover that there is quite the relationship between hogs and corn. Apparently there was a practice called "hogging off" a field where the farmer would harvest corn by turning pigs loose in a cornfield in the fall. I'm a bit unclear whether this meant the hogs would get fattened up this way or merely eat the corn stalks leaving the ears of corn for the farmer to pick up. I'm betting on the former.

Regardless, this is where my father could have picked up the phrase. Though he never really lived on a farm. His parents did raise chickens though. So I am surprised that he didn't say "them's his corn and his chickens." He never really talked about chickens at all come to think of it.

He did say something about "zapping when he should have zipped" or visa versus. I always assumed that had something to do with sex, but again, a Google search shows that once again my father was the creator of his very own idiom. That's two. And here I struggle to come up with a blog post title that 3 million other people haven't already used.

My father did use the phrase "none of your beeswax" a lot, too. I know he didn't come up with that one. I Googled it and it has been used a great deal. No one really knows what it means, however, other than being a nonsensical way of telling someone to mind their own business. Some sources claimed it was first used in 1925 in the Broadway musical, "No No Nanette." But it doesn't explain why something isn't someone else's "beeswax." I would think "it's none of your earwax" makes more sense.

Anyway, I think I will create my own hybrid idiom based on my father's idioms stirred together with a bit of beeswax. Here goes, "Them's his cornwax and his hogs zapping when they should have zipped." Whew hoo! In a few days, after the Googlebots have searched through my blog, they'll find that gem and I will be the one and only reference anyone will find!

I am so proud.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Stop me before I watch the Spike Network again

Not a week since I admitted I'd watched several episodes of the Deadliest Warrior and I'm back confessing that  I lifted up the black curtain of the Spike Network and watched another scab picker of a program: 1000 Ways to Die. It is a docu-drama type show that reenacts incredibly stupid ways people have died. It is dedicated to proving Darwin was correct.

I didn't mean to watch this program. But once again I was on the elliptical machine with the lousy cable selection at my gym scanning through trash television for something to distract me from my eight miles on the machine. And there it was, a guy chugging beer driving a steamroller round and round until he needs to relieve himself. He hops off the steamroller and goes into a Honeybucket (a port-o-potty to some). Kicker is he forgets to put the brakes on the steamroller. It proceeds to gather steam and rolls over the Honeybucket, crushing the idiot. And as if it weren't enough to show a graphic reenactment of this stupidity, SPIKE brings in a medical specialist to describe in great detail what it would look and feel like to be inside a port-o-potty when a steamroller flattens it (and you).

The show proceeds to with its macabre countdown with a moronic narrator scripted with some of the worst puns I've ever heard (and I realize that is ironic coming from me). For example, referring to the guy killed by the steamroller who had consumed two six packs of beer before the accident, the narrator says something to the effect of "This beer drinking binge left him flat." I wonder if I can get a job as a scriptwriter for the show.

So I watched a half hour of people's lives ending in stupid ways: two drunks hijacking a giant hamster ball and rolling off a cliff, a nagging wife electrocuted running a lawnmower over an arch welder power cord, a stowaway freezing to death in the cargo hold of an airplane and bank foreclosure officer shooting in an Army/Navy surplus himself in the forehead with a .22 caliber pistol disguised as a ballpoint pen (while he was serving the store owner with a foreclosure notice.

I am so ashamed. But I did have enough willpower to switch channels when the next reality program came on: Jail. I couldn't take watching another 30-minutes of human wreckage being booked into holding cells in Portland, Oregon. I do have some standards.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Bird Bullies

I was standing at the train platform this morning in my usual spot thankful that it is Friday and I'll get two mornings where I can sleep in until 6 a.m. instead of the usual 5:45 a.m. (I have two small children) when I noticed a crow behaving oddly. I suppose it is redundant to say a crow is behaving oddly. Crows are pretty odd birds to begin with.

I say it was a crow, but it could have been a raven. They look alike to me. I realize that is probably being a birdist, but hey, they are all big, black birds. Oh, I know  a raven is supposed to be bigger than a crow, but you can also run across lots of big crows.

But I digress.

Anyway, this big black bird was circling around a telephone pole. Or maybe it was a power pole because I think they put all of the fiber optics lines that telephones use underground these days. I'm not certain why they don't do the same with power lines.

But back to the crow (or raven). It would circle around the pole and then swoop down at this big seagull sitting on the pole. I am certain it was a seagull because they are pretty hard to mistake for any other bird. And I read Johnathan Livingston Seagull and saw the movie. I don't think the movie was as good as the book, though.

This seagull was about twice the size of the crow. But still this crow flies round and round and swoops in at the seagull on each loop. It was like the crow was playing chicken with the seagull. Just to clarify this, the crow wasn't acting like a chicken, he was playing chicken. Though I don't know why they call it "playing chicken." I can honestly say I've never seen chickens running at each other to see which one will swerve out of the way first. And are chickens really "chicken?" If they were, they wouldn't always be crossing roads, now would they?

But the crow was obviously targeting this poor seagull who finally had enough and flew off from the pole. And I'll be darned if the crow didn't chase it. I watched them do dog fight maneuvers above the waterfront. Though I don't know why an air battle got to be known as a dog fight since I've never seen a flying dog.  Anyway, this crow didn't let up and I watched him badger (another odd animal phrase that makes no sense if you really think about it because a badger is the last thing you'd want to annoy) the poor seagull until I lost sight of them behind the senior center that is located across the street from the train station.

While this was all going on there were several other seagulls gliding around doing whatever it is that seagulls do. But not one of them paid any attention to the crow harassing the seagull. You would think they would have said to each other, "Hey, that crow is picking on Waldo. Let's go kick his crow butt." But no. None of them lifted a feather to help.

So it got me to think, what recourse do birds have when they encounter bird bullies? There aren't any bird police or bird lawyers that I know of. They can't file bird restraining orders or no fly zone writs. They are just pretty much SOL.

I thought about this for awhile. Then my train came.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Forgive me father for I have watched the Deadliest Warrior on the Spike Network

If you are unfamiliar with the Spike Network, it is a cable based network that, near as I can tell, only broadcasts testosterone laced programming. The only time I watch it is when I am at the gym and can't bear to watch another episode of the Barefoot Contessa on the Food Network or stomach back to back episodes of King of Queens. My gym only springs for basic, basic cable so there isn't much to choose from.

Anyway, normally I will watch a program called the Unit, a series about a covert military unit that only deals in black ops. It deals with the day to day family lives of men trained to rip your head off and crap down the hole. Woven in with the mundane assassinations and blowing up foreign capitols is the subplot of the wives of the men in the Unit. It is riveting.

But I digress.

The other day the Unit wasn't on. What was on was a series called the Deadliest Warrior. The premise of this reality show is that members of a group called the Fight Club team up with scientists to analyze in great depth what the outcome would be if famous warriors from different eras in history were pitted against each other. For example what would happen if an Apache warrior ran into a Roman Gladiator at a bar and got into a dispute over peanut shells? Or who would win a belly bumping contest, a Samurai or a Viking?

The scary thing about this show is that there is a group called the Fight Club and that they get to play with sharp objects. This is role playing and historical reenactment on steroids. These guys hack away and club anatomically correct dummies and then ooh and ahhh at the wounds they've inflicted. Then they smack each other on the butt and fist butt a lot. It is totally whacked.

But I watched back to back episodes. Just in case you are curious, an Apache warrior can whoop a gladiator (but I bet not Spartacus) and a Samurai has the upper hand when fighting a Viking. The show determines this by inputting the data gathered as the fight club hacks up the dummies with the appropriate weapons for the appropriate warrior. They then run a computer program that averages the number of times either genre of warrior would win. The show then recreates the ultimate showdown battle an reveals which warrior wins.

It is pitiful that I watch this and kind of enjoy it.

BTW, a ninja can beat a Spartan by throwing ground glass in his eyes. I don't think this is very sportsmanlike.

Monday, April 19, 2010

If only you thought like me and not like you

Is it possible to think exactly like someone else? Or do we hear what we want to hear coming out from an other's mouth and let our brain Spackle over the cracks of our differences until we truly believe another thinks like us?

I believe we can have similar thoughts, but none of us really think the same about everything. And that is the boogie man in the closet when it comes to communicating with others. Actually it is the boogie man in the closet when it comes to communicating with ourselves.

How many times do you catch yourself thinking, "I can't believe ___ does (or thinks or believes) ____." I think that all the time. But lately I've been catching myself and reminding myself that other people act and think the way they do because they aren't me. All of the iterations of life experience and environment that influence how people think have got to make each individuals' thought patterns as unique as their fingerprints. It is a miracle that any of us think the same about anything.

This helps me understand the incomprehensible like why anyone would become a Republican or a born again Christian. Well, at least it helps me accept it. The problem is, I observe that many people who lock their thinking into a pretty extreme thinking pattern (like being a Republican or born again Christian) firmly believe at that point that that is the only possible way to think and they shut out any possibility that any other viewpoint could be valid.

This realization also helps me understand how my old friend Siddhartha could achieve enlightenment and then have difficulty sharing it with others. Siddhartha's path to enlightenment was woven with his own unique thought patterns. Most of us would have simply sat under the tree with the best intentions of sitting there until we were enlightened, but given up when we began hallucinating about a BLT sandwich. Even Buddha's step-by-step instructions would be more or less useless since they only documented his path to enlightenment based on his viewpoint.

Oh, I suppose you argue that by being enlightened, the Buddha had stepped out of his individual viewpoint and was looking at things from a universal point of view (points of view?). But still, the people he was trying to teach were still stuck in their own private Idaho mindset.

It reminds me of my experience with mathematics. I have never been particularly enamored with numbers. I can deal with them, but I don't get all euphoric when trying to calculate pi to the nth decimal. But because I was better than average in a normal math class in school, I was placed in advanced math classes in junior high.  I went from being the head of my class in regular math to the village idiot in advanced math. By the time I was in high school, I was floundering around in advanced calculus like a banjo playing hillbilly in a French cafe trying to order lunch. I didn't understand  a word that was being said to me. At one point after coming in before class for some tutoring from the calculus teacher, she simply shook her head and patted me on the arm.

This experience taught me several things. First, it is better to be the best amongst the worst than the worst amongst the best. Second, I would never become a physicist. Third, if you don't speak a particular language well or at all, speaking louder and louder doesn't really make a difference. Finally, my brain is not hardwired for advance mathematical calculations. I simply don't think the same way as mathematicians. But conversely, they don't think the same way as me. So to coexist we simply have to acknowledge that and continue living in our parallel universes tolerating each other but not really understanding each other.

I have always prided myself as having a pretty good sense of humor. So the realization that none of us think and see the world exactly in the same way cuts deeply into my own sense of my sense of humor. I have to accept that sometimes a whoopee cushion is just a whoopee cushion and that what cracks me up often confuses others.

Which leads to my daughter's favorite joke: Why did the chicken cross the playground?
Answer: To get to the other slide.

I think it is kind of funny, too.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Divine rituals of the daily routine


My children remind me of the importance of ritual that stems from daily routines. If things don't happen in pretty much the same way every morning, there is a ripple in the force that turns into a Tsunami by their bedtime. Sometimes it is the ruts that keep us on track.

It is not that I don't like variety. But there is something soothing about sameness uninterrupted by the unexpected. As a public transit commuter, I take the same train at the same time every day and try to sit in the same car (if not the same seat) for each trip. I follow the same path from the train station to my office and turn on the lights in my office in more or less the same pattern each day.

My rituals are not so rigid that I would classify myself as OCD, but they are fixed enough that I get agitated if they are disrupted. For example if for some reason I can not take my usual train home because of a meeting and have to take a later train it snowballs into a major routine shift that messes with my psyche. For one it puts my ritual stop at the gym on the way home from the train station in jeopardy. I must then decide whether to skip the workout (which messes with another ongoing routine), cut it short (which reduces the effectiveness of the routine) or workout as long and then mess up the routine at home with my children (which ripples into the dinner and bedtime rituals they are ingrained in).

Everything is connected.

I know rationally that there is no cause and effective connection between the rituals of routine and reality. Stepping on a crack really doesn't break your mother's back, but who wants to do it intentionally just in case there is something to it? We learn as children that there is magic in ritual. You get a good grade on a test because you had your lucky rock in your pocket, not because you studied or have a good memory.

Churches know there is magic in ritual. It bolsters faith much more than miracles. And even miracles usually have their root in ritual or routine.

There is even routine to how I break up my routine. For example, I alternate the color clothing I wear from day to day. If I wear black slacks and shoes one day, I need to wear brown the next. I have one belt, but it is reversible black and brown.

Television is fraught with ritual and routine. How many people build their schedules around a favorite program? Okay, DVRs are changing that, but still you need to record "your shows" and watch them at "your time" to find that peace that a routine provides.

Movies, television and books repeat the same plots over and over because that is what comforts people. Villains lose and heroes win. If some rebel writer comes along and reverses the role, they are merely following the ritual of rebellion. Doing the opposite of a routine is simply another routine. Being consciously different is the no different than being subconsciously the same.

Perhaps it is nature that is the source of our need for ritual and routine. Everything in nature comes in waves and patterns that repeat and cycle like clockwork. Don't get me started on Fibonacci numbers (a numbering system based on the rate at which rabbits reproduce). Perhaps our daily routines and rituals are our macroscopic mimicking of the microscopic world of the atom and subatomic particles. We are pulled along the orbit of our lives by the gravity of our routines.

So give us this day, our daily routine and forgive us our rituals. For they etched on our DNA and keep us going down that middle road I've been harping on, to enlightenment.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Show us the Facebook you had before you were blogging

I have begun to think that blogging is my middle road to enlightenment. In August, I will have been hiking this path for six years. That is about the time it took my good friend Siddhartha to flick the switch on his enlightenment. So I imagine mine is just about to shine as well. That is, if I don't get distracted by some bright and shiny object along the way. After all, I do like my digressions.

I find it interesting that we always associate light with spiritual awakening. Yet we shut our eyes when we meditate. Personally, I do my best thinking in the dark. For the past three years I've had plenty of time at night to think while I sit in the rocking chair in my daughter's room waiting for her to fall asleep. It is a very peaceful time as I listen to the same lullaby CD over and over and watch the colors of the night light fade in and out. The white noise of a fan we keep on to help lull our dear one to sleep adds to the reflective atmosphere.

Sitting there is a rare opportunity to be still. But even as my body sits still, my mind races. It is so much harder to still the brain than it is the body. Thoughts shriek at the speed of light (there's the light again), refiring synapses of long forgotten memories and moments and trying to piece together meaning out of the fragments of my life.

I suppose the fragments are the meaning. I think that is what the Buddha was saying. Buddhism doesn't have a creation story or an afterlife. They aren't relevant to the now. I suppose that makes sense. If you always live in the past or live for the future, you are going to miss what is happening right now. And that is a great loss. You can never regain the now.

I am beginning to sound like a fortune cookie, which I posit was the inspiration for Twitter. Both impose a limit on imparting wisdom in 140 characters or less. Not that there is much wisdom imparted by Twitter.

There I go digressing again.

This entire discussion has made me think of the lyrics to a Beatles song: "I'm fixing a hole where the rain gets in, and stops my mind from wandering. Where it will go. Where it will go." It is okay for the mind to wander as long as it eventually finds its way home.

Do you suppose that is what Siddhartha's mind was doing while he sat under the tree pondering enlightenment? Was it wandering through the invisible ties that connect everyone and everything? It is said that he was able to uncover every memory of every life he had ever lived. Did he tap into the time space continuum and surf the fourth dimension?

I think of that fourth dimension when I run on the treadmill. I think about folding time in half and then quarters. I force myself not to look at the timer. Because the minute I look at a clock, time unfolds and becomes heavy again. And then the heaviness seeps into my feet and the workout becomes a burden again.

Once again the treadmill becomes my symbol for trying to understand something that perhaps can't be understood. Or more accurately, can't be put into words. A treadmill to me is the sound of one foot running. It is so unlike running outside. Oddly enough I prefer it to running outside. I find it more difficult to fold time outdoors because there are so many distractions...traffic lights, dogs barking, traffic, rain, hills, puddles...third dimensional things. The treadmill is a constant, middle of the road running of the mind.

Oh well, enough sitting under the tree for now. Perhaps if I keep this up I'll have achieved enlightenment by my six year blog anniversary.

But then what will I do?

Monday, April 12, 2010

On the treadmill to Nirvana (not the musical group)

I was at the club jogging on the treadmill on Sunday. Normally, I like to watch the Food Network while I workout and stare at the food I am not supposed to enjoy anymore. The Food Network programming has enough commercial breaks spaced evenly throughout their programs that I can usually judge how much time I have left in my workout without staring obsessively at the timer on the machine. Unfortunately there wasn't anything appetizing on the Food Network so I ended up watching a PBS program about Prince Siddhartha Gautama, the original Buddha.

This turned into a challenge for me on more than one level. First it was PBS and there were no commercial breaks so I had no point of reference for how long I had left in my hour-long jog. Second, I had to suppress a certain amount of guilt at thinking I was suffering by jogging six miles when Siddhartha was pretty much spending years hanging upside down on trees, sleeping on nails and eating a grain of rice a day. Then there was the whole enlightenment thing.

I am no newcomer to Buddhist teaching. Of all organized religions, I think it comes closest to capturing my imagination. I even spent a couple of years as a Buddhist. It was a more radical sect that I joined to impress a woman I was dating at the time. I stopped being that particular brand of Buddhist after I stopped seeing the woman and after I became annoyed that all these Buddhist's seem to do was chant for stuff. The woman that talked me into joining was a starving artist and was convinced she had chanted a new car into her life. I kept thinking at the time if she had chanted a new car into her life she might have chanted for a nicer one. But I guess the Buddha gives to the needy, not the greedy.

Regardless, I don't think chanting for material things is technically Buddhism. The PBS program confirmed my suspicions. After being born into a privileged and sheltered life as a Prince, Siddhartha discovered that suffering (in the form of disease, aging and death) existed in the world. Then he set out to figure out a way to overcome that endless cycle of suffering. He tried out a couple of gurus. Although he was an excellent student, he still didn't feel as though he was any closer to his goal of overcoming suffering. So he tried asceticism (a path of self-deprivation that is supposed to lead to spirituality) and meditation. Still no enlightenment.

Finally Siddhartha decided that mega starvation diets, not bathing, eating or sleeping was too extreme for achieving enlightenment. He accepted a bowl of rice pudding from a local maiden and decided life looked better on a full stomach. He then chose the "middle ground" a moderate path to enlightenment that didn't require extreme indulgence or deprivation. He simply sat under a tree until the truth came to him.

And what was the truth? Where there were actually four of them. First, there is suffering (which is what started him down the whole spiritual path in the first place). Second, there is a cause for the suffering (we having cravings for lots of crap we don't really need). Third, it is possible to eliminate suffering by eliminating our cravings for crap. This is called achieving Nirvana (again, not the music group). Finally, there are eight things you need in order to achieve Nirvana and not crave for crap any more:right view, right intention, right speech, right action, right livelihood,right effort, right mindfulness, and right concentration.

Okay, I was okay with the first three truths (knowing there is suffering, knowing what causes it and knowing it is possible to over come it). But I got annoyed that the fourth truth tacked on another eight things that in turn probably come with lots of conditions, foot notes and legal disclaimers. I think what I need is a copy of Enlightenment for Dummies.

What I did glean from my 60-minute immersion into the birth of Buddhism on PBS was that after Siddhartha became enlightened and the Buddha, he simply learned to accept where, when, what and who he was at the moment. And that you get there by not being miserable by not having what you don't have (and probably really don't need). This contradicts the very nature of what I as a marketing person do for a living: convincing people they truly need what they do not have and when they get it they need much more of it.

Does that make me an anti-Buddha?

After my six-mile jog on the treadmill to enlightenment, I sat in the locker room pondering some of things I'd absorbed during my workout. When you run on a treadmill while seeking that path of enlightenment you definitely are forced to stay on the middle ground or you'll fly off the thing. And once you are through with your workout, the suffering subsides as well. I do believe the Buddhist concept that we are all the Buddha and that everything is connected (though there were a few fat, hairy men in the locker room that I don't enjoy the thought of being connected to in any fashion).

I also believe that I sweat a disproportionate amount for a person of my size even though I had just ran for an hour.

Friday, April 09, 2010

Days of our blog

I woke up this morning thinking it was Thursday. I was quite bummed by the fact. It wasn't until I got to work and e-mailed someone who doesn't work on Fridays and got their out-of-office message that I finally realized it was actually Friday.

Now I am bummed that it is casual Friday and I am not wearing jeans. I'm tempted to whip off my slacks and lounge around in my boxer briefs. But no one needs to see that. It even conjures up a mental image that creeps me out.

And why do they call them slacks when you have to wear them to work? Shouldn't they be called works?

But I digress.

I wondered why this week was dragging. So the little crack in my space time continuum has been spackled and my body clock can speed back up to Friday mode. Not that I feel much like speeding up anything. The cold I got from my kids has worked its way into a nasty little sinus infection. They feel so raw that if you turned my face inside out, I'd look like Freddie Kruger's stunt double.

I am not sure what the purpose of a sinus is other than to function as a snot cistern when I have a cold or an infection. I'm sure that is another mental image no one needed after picturing me sitting around in my boxer briefs.

Back to more pleasant but still mundane topics. I am still dabbling with Foursquare, the odd social networking site that allows "friends" to track your whereabouts when you check in via your phone with a Foursquare app. It appeals to my obsessive nature to accumulate things. Because the more you check in, the more points you get. I am the "mayor" of about eight places now because I have checked in the most at those places. One of them was the gym I work out in. I even got a "gym rat" award for checking in there so much.

Up until yesterday, I didn't have any "friends" on Foursquare. One I don't really know anyone who would bother to use Foursquare and two, I was embarrassed to invite any friends I know to join because frankly I don't like the idea of them knowing where I am all the time. Regardless, some stranger sent me a notice saying he wanted to be one of my friends. At first it kind of creeped me out the way it would if Idaho Senator Larry Craig was in the stall next to mine in the men's room tapping his foot at me. But then I decided to go ahead and accept the invitation.  Apparently the guy takes the same train as I do to and from work. It is a weird social network.

I'm also still Twittering away thinking it may drive some more traffic to my blog. Why I care at this point whether anyone comes to my blog is beyond me. And it hasn't really worked anyway. The only people who seem to follow me on Twitter are ones who want to send me hot, sexy photos of them if I pay for a password. I'm tempted to offer to exchange photos of me sitting in my office in my boxer briefs with them just to teach them not to be nasty spammers. But my luck they would end up in some other spammer scheme to sell photos of middle aged men in boxer briefs via some Web site. Then some of my Facebook friends who actually know me might end up seeing them and unfriend me.

Social media can be a complicated thing. Maybe I should have called this post, "As the Blog turns."

Thursday, April 08, 2010

The Great Composters!


I don't really have strong feelings one way or the other about composting. I was just staring at the compost bin in the kitchen at our office and I had this idea for a great ad campaign for some composter company that could use images of great classical composers hawking composters as "the Great Composters." 

I mean Beetoven is a natural for a compost ad:
Few people know that Ludwig Van BEEToven was one of the world's great composters as well as a great composer. And if he were alive today, he'd tell you that our new Slopco Great Composters line is one classical composter. 
Today's composting hint: Beets are fully compostable. But Beetoven's Fifth Movement isn't.
I come up with enough pearls like these in any given day to string several impressive necklaces, but so far my genius flys pretty far under the radar. Case in point was my idea for the Crockpot Restaurant. I can't wait for that concept to heat up.

Sometimes when I blog I feel like I'm just shuffling around in an old robe, muttering to myself and opening cans of cat food.

But I digress.

Although I am in marketing, I really wish I'd pursued a career path early on as a copywriter at an ad agency. Of course if I had, I'd probably be standing in an unemployment line muttering to myself and wondering why I'd been replaced by some hotshot young copywriter who could tweet award winning copy in 140 characters or less while I was whipping out gems like "The Great Composters."

I suppose we follow the meandering paths through life for a reason.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Hey is for horses and other idiotic idioms

 I tried Googling this idiom and got various versions including, "Hay is for horses, and sometimes cows, pigs would eat it if they just knew how." But I'd always remembered it as "Hay is for horses, but pigs won't eat it." I couldn't tell why I remembered it that way. I think I heard it for the first time on some movie and it became forever etched in my gray matter. It is a pity I can't retain useful information as well.

Regardless, it is an annoying thing to say (as are most idioms). They come out of our mouths like an idiomatic tourettes syndrome. When Googling the "hey is for horses" line, I found thread after thread of people fixating on the stupid idioms they learned from their parents. And I cringe because I say some of these things:

See ya, wouldn't want to be ya.
Well...deep subject for such a shallow mind.
Hello...hell's low and heaven's high.
(when someone trips) Have a nice trip, see you next fall.
(when someone asks if I got a haircut) More than one.
I am so ashamed. I don't want to say these things but they are so ingrained into my involuntary speech monitor that I can't seem to reel them in.  I do have to say that I found a few funny ones to add to my arsenal while doing my search:
(when someone says they are going to the bathroom) Mention my name and they'll give you a good seat.
(when someone say they "wish" something would happen) Put your wish in one hand and take a dump in the other and see which one gets filled sooner.
Oh my god. Please don't let me start saying those things, too. Damn you Google!

Monday, April 05, 2010

Dizgraceland: America's Crock Pot


Being a marketing professional, I recognize the value of a good tagline. So I have been toying with the idea of adding one to Dizgraceland calling it Dizgraceland: America's Crock Pot. I think this works on many levels. On one level, I throw a bunch of ideas into a post, put the lid on and let them cook in the Internet ether for awhile until they get all soft, mushy and tasteless (though mostly they are tasteless to begin with). Then I open the lid and slop them onto a plate.

On another level crock pot could just be a play on the words "crack pot." Either way, I think I'm on to something here. Of course, it could be Dizgraceland: America's Crock Post. But that may be a bit too cerebral for most people.

And speaking of crock pots, I had this great idea for a restaurant. There is this chain of successful fondue restaurants called the Melting Pot that make a fortune off from people essentially cooking their own food at their table and charging them much more than if a chef cooked it for them. What if I open up a chain of restaurants called the Crock Pot. The principle would be the same. A smarmy waiter would come to your table, introduce himself as David and plop a crock pot down in front of you. You'd order all of the traditional ingredients and David would bring them right to your table where you'd plop them into the crock pot. Then David would fire it up (he needs to earn a tip, you know) and six to eight hours later you could dish out one tasty crock pot treat for the entire table.

Oh, I know what you are thinking, what are the customers supposed to do while they are waiting that six to eight hours for their meal to cook. Simple: this is where David sells them bottle after bottle of overpriced wine. Everybody knows that wine and liquor is where the big markups are in the restaurant biz. And that's where you make your major big bucks in this scheme.

I'm thinking of trademarking this idea and then selling franchises right out of the chute.  I could be the next Colonel Sanders. You'd see my picture on a big sign outside of each Crock Pot.


I'm thinking the restaurants themselves could be done up in 50s retro style. I think I still have enough old diner dishes left over from my obsessive thrift store shopping days to outfit at least two or three of the flagship restaurants. I've even thought of some of the great entrees we could offer up:

Mamma's Mac and Cheese (heart) Attack
A Chicken in Every Crock Pot special
Dynamite Chili Surprise
Sloppy Jo-Jo Crock Pot Pie
Here's the Beef Crock Pot Roast
A Crock of Chips and Potted Fish

And for those interested in Continental cooking:

England's Own Spotted Dick in a Crock Pot
Pizza in a Crock Pot
Can't Be Beet Borscht
Three Little Perogies

For dessert (for those with another six hours to kill after dinner):

Ritz Faux Apple Pie in Crock Pot
Chip or Get Off the Crock Pot Chocolate Cake
Pudding in a Cloud Surprise
Yum!

I know all of this is a lot to digest for one post. But if you want to invest in my little Crock Pot of Gold idea, drop me a line.

Friday, April 02, 2010

A tempest in a crock pot

For some reason this perversion of the phrase "tempest in a teapot" came to me this morning on the train and I was terribly pleased with myself for thinking of something so clever and original. Or course as with most of my clever and original thoughts, my self-absorbed bubble was burst when I did a Google search for the phrase "tempest in a crock pot." Umpteen bloggers and newspaper columnists have been spouting it for several years now.

No offense, but sometimes Google sucks.

Just once I'd like to Google something and find out I am the only one who has thought of it. I had this breakthrough idea awhile back that I'd write a musical version of Dirty Harry. A Google search of course turns up several articles about some guy working on a musical version of Magnum Force, the sequel to Dirty Harry. Personally, I think that is a stupid idea. But Dirty Harry the Musical has Oscar written all over it. It's just a pity that Clint Eastwood couldn't reprise the role with my new vision. No offense Clint, but your best years in front of the camera are past you.

There, I have insulted two icons in one blog post.

After having been thwarted by others already having come up with "tempest in a crock pot," I tried "tempest in a chamber pot." Not as clever as "tempest in a crock pot," but still a bit edgy. Googled it. Been used. Then I tried "tempest in a honey pot" thinking I could capitalize on the Pooh angle (not that far from the chamber pot...pooh...chamber pot, get it). I'll be damned if someone didn't use "tempest in a honey pot." Granted there was only one reference to it so I could probably get away with claiming it was mine.

But Google would know. Google knows everything. Go to Google Earth and they even know where you live and when you put your garbage out.

Think about how nice it was before the Internet existed. You could come up with all these original ideas and feel pretty darned smug thinking they were just your ideas. Millions of people could be blissfully unaware of the other million people who had the same idea.

No offense, but the Internet sucks.

That's three icons dissed on in one post. I'm going to hunker down now and wait for lightening to strike.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

App-titude test

Since I basically hate telephones, I am hard pressed to think of any phone as a smart phone. I have a Blackberry, but I am not sure it qualifies as a smart phone anyway. It doesn't seem very smart. The only game I seem to be able to play on it is Brickbreaker and it is just a step above Pong (look it up on Wikipedia).

One thing I hate about smart phones is that they spawned the bastard term "apps" which I am pretty sure is short for "applications." Because you wouldn't want to have to waste your time spitting out those last three syllables saying "applications."

Apps are important to the functionality of a smart phone because they expand the functionality beyond the original purpose of a phone beyond just talking to someone while you are sitting on the john. Apps, usually developed by third party developers who are really just paste eating geeks with way too much time on their hands. These third party developers take something called open source code (which sounds a lot like "open sores code" if it is said too quickly) and create useful apps that allow you to use your smart phone to tell you the temperature in Barcelona even though you live in Buffalo.

The only apps I have on my Blackberry are one that tracks my airline reservations and another that allows me to let any friends who follow me on Foursquare track my whereabouts. If anyone actually followed me on Foursquare they would know when I get on and off the train or go to the gym. Couldn't live without that app.

I don't think it is so much generational that I find apps annoying. I have always prided myself on riding the technology wave. I was the first person in my company to use an IBM PC when they first came out. And I've thrown out more technological advancements than most young people have dreamed about. I just think creating a phone that creates callouses on your thumbs from typing is just wrong.

Don't get me started on texting. I'll use my Blackberry to e-mail, but I draw the line on texting. I saw a commercial this evening for a new phone that uses some new shorthand typing method that allows people to break the Guinness World Record for texting the most amount of text in the least amount of time.

OMG!

Get thee behind me smartphone of the devil!

BTW, can anyone tell me what the hell a 3-G network is and why a 4-G is better (other than it is one more than three). And while you are at it, let me know what a Hemi is on a monster truck?

Sigh...