Wednesday, February 29, 2012

OBSOLENCIA: Useless Skills Learned In High School

Obsolencia is Spanish for obsolescence, but it sounds more like the name of a mystical far-away land where things and ideas that are no longer pertinent or useful are banished to.

In my case, I can think of so many things that I learned in high school and before that have gone the way of the horse and carriage. Time, style and especially technology changed so many things.

1. Centering a line of text using a typewriter.
Even with late stage (ie late 1980's technology) IBM Selectrics, a typist had to do a bit of thinking in order to get a line centered correctly on the page using a typewriter. Many later electrics and probably some manuals had the ability to automatically tab to the center via a designated key, or, you could keep using the TAB key to get to the center of the page. Then you had to count the number of letters, punctuation and blank spaces in the line, divide by 2, and hit the BACKSPACE key that many times. Now you were in position to type out that line. Next line? Same BS! Whew, what a chore!

2. Long division.
I have no fucking clue how to do this anymore. If a calculator is not handy (but seriously, how far away from a calculator are you at anytime these days...your phone, your computer, maybe your watch, they're all over) you can do de facto guesstimate division in your head for most simple tasks by using multiplication and dividing by easy to remember factors like 1/2 or 1/4, then paring down from there as needed. For instance, if I needed to know what 7% of 168 was I do it like this: I know 10% would be 16.8 and 1% would be 1.68 so I need to subtract 3 x 1.68 = 5.04 from 16.8 which would equal 11.76. Let me use a calculator using actual division....11.76 correct. Now yes, I know I could just multiply 168 by .07 but that is easier to fuck up when doing it in your head. At least for me. Plus, if I was really pressed for time, like doing a multiple choice quiz with a time limit, I can guesstimate the sum faster using my method and pick the answer closest to my estimate.

3. BASIC computer language
Admittedly I never really learned this very well in high school. I only had one semester of it and it was during the infancy of personal computers so we, including the teacher, really were virgin to it all. We programmed on Radio Shack TSR-80s for Christ's sake! The thing'd probably burst into flames if your program were over a few hundred lines of code!

4. Penmanship
Remember when this was an actual course taught in school? Talk about obsolete, this now ranks right up there with spelling and grammar. These concepts must still be taught but I don't think too many of our planet's newest generations are trying to master them. If YouTube comments are to be a gauge, almost no one gives a fuck about grammar and spelling anymore (no penmanship on computers, of course), especially (sad to say) Americans. Ugh!

5. The Metric System
Oh yes, it's very much in use throughout the world, except not here in the US. I remember having to learn all sorts of metric measurements and the imperial-to-metrics conversion tables because, according to my instructors, the US was soon to convert to metrics. Well, as you know, that big conversion never happened.  What do I know of metrics now? A gram is about the same weight as a raisin. A centimeter is about the width of your fingernail. (A child's or adult's? I don't remember.) And a liter is half of a 2-liter bottle of soda. That's about all. Never ask me how many kilometers it is to anywhere or how many meters high is something or especially not what temperature it is in Celsius. I'm American and I don't fucking know.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Coup Fourré!

As a kid I remember playing the card game "Mille Bornes" and getting a thrill out of using a Coup Fourré move. I don't remember all the rules anymore but I do remember using this was like a counter-strike against your opponent. It basically cancelled out the offensive move your opponent had attempted to hit you with and gave you advantages to advance. But it was a tactic of had to have the right card to play at just the right time.

But putting vaguely analogous children's card games aside, I have a feeling that last night I was a victim of a "Coup Fourré" style gambit.

At work, we (The Night Crew) had another of Susan's general touch-base "meetings", which really are only scheduled when she has some chip on her shoulder. (Makes me think of the line in "The Sixth Sense" when Cole tells Bruce Wills that "They don't have meetings about [pictures of] rainbows.")

Susan ticked off minor issue after minor issue relatively quickly and without much substance so I started wondering what this was really going to be about. Then she dropped the bomb.

The new guy, Eric, was hired on as 40-hours full time, all night shift hours. She needed to fit him in the schedule. Her bullshit shpeel was in tones of "in order to fulfill our commitment to our mission statement" and "working together to come up with a solution" but she was implying that we had some empowered abilities to accommodate this promise to him while still maintaining our full-time status.

Basically, we were being told that June and I were going to need to give up hours. Or agree to a chopped up hack job of a schedule where we'd work hours on other shifts.

I don't think June could see, initially, beyond the smoke and mirrors Susan was trying to use to glaze us over, but I, for one, am certainly no virgin to this kind of rodeo, boys! June and the new guy both agreed to work out something. (Why was the new guy agreeing to accommodation for himself? I have no fucking clue.) I held fast and rather tersely declared to Susan that I would not be willing to either decrease or manipulate my schedule, period. She then got all defensive saying "Who said anything about decreasing hours?"

The meeting was very soon over since she had done what she came to do, and that is, give us a heads-up on a soon-to-be revamped work schedule. And despite my grumblings and assertions, I'll be forced to accept it, or else hit the pavement.

June later said to me that she was going to email Susan to let her know that she'd not accept any schedule modification either but we all know that she probably won't. And if she did, Susan might feel backed into a corner and left with no option but to fire one of us. Before last night, I would have thought that would surely be June before me.

But why I have a feeling this has been a Coup Fourré move is that both June and the new guy seemed totally un-phased by this bombshell. And they were acquiescent so readily.

What if it's a ploy to get rid of me?

Quelle horreur. C'est dommage.

Friday, February 17, 2012

War. War Never Changes...

"War. War never changes..." - Ron Pearlman voiceover in Fallout game series intros.

So just last week, Linda became the newest Long Lost Friend to contact me via the internet. She says she misses me so much and thinks about me everyday. She still has and frequently dotes over the few paintings I'd done for her in the '80s including a Christmas/Theatrical painted vintage wooden sled named "Rosebud". (I'd forgotten about this.)

Apparently the Facebook account she had set up a couple years ago as a marketing tool to some Radio Shack promo is purring to life as she's gathering friends and family, sharing photos and posting about good times. She's learned how to use it as a social media device and, now here, she's hooked.

But I've had enough of the recent Facebook connections which prove to be messages of love and hopes of repatriation in one burst of enthusiastic glee, reaching out to someone they knew as Michael, a fun-loving, optimistic, talented son-of-a-gun from Rhode Island.

I greet them back appreciative of their efforts but remind them of several nascent issues in my life which have frankly spiraled out of control here in Florida over the last 20 years.

They also obtained information about accessing the blog, if they haven't already found it through other means. Koyaanisqatsi's a blog-zilla but a determined individual using simple search words could easily get to all the juicy parts about them. After all these years, I'm certain everyone has a juicy part.

So soon after reaching out to the ghost of Michael Past, they become aware of the morbidity of my current state and politely, albeit clumsily, retreat back to their white picket fences and quietly ensure the gate is securely locked behind them.

And they hunker back to their respective shelters for they regained the memory that in essence, war still exists between us. A long, dark and cold war.

These people though they say they love me see the sign upon the gate of the metaphorical city in which I dwell and it says the name "SODOM".

At work, the Junta and Fascists are in all out conflagration. Only by sneaky tactics and blatant lies have I avoided become en-raveled with this mess, Katherine has fallen, all eyes are bugging out to see who next will be on the copping block.

My body is in a slow-burn revolution. My circaidian rhythms are in chaos. I can't even think about sleeping with out Ambien and unless I take a double dose, I still get restless sleep with frequent bathroom visits only to be followed by a jump to awareness 4 or 5 hours later, sans cortizol cascade. Despite huge quantities of caffeine soda, I'm exhausted and achy by 3am, tortuously watching the clock tick down as slowly as molasses.

My peaceful building simulation games are being pushed out by the new bullies in the Steam library, Rage, GTA IV, and of course Skyrim. More heads have rolled on my video monitor than ever before.

It's late now and I have lost yet another battle to Ambien. It's as if strange voices told me to take it lest I turn into a member of the walking dead.

Yes, Mr. Pearlman, you know your shit. I think it's over then it sprouts its perverse head again, only to be slain by my swift sword of vengeance again and again.

That is, until one day, when it finally gets to me. Then it's all over, my friend. Via Con Dios!

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Goodbye My Dear Whitney

I never stopped loving you and your amazing talent. This song especially had such special meaning for me and no one could sing it like you could.

I apologize to your memory that I assaulted so many of my friends' ears with my attempt to emulate you at the drop of a hat, but when I sang this, in my mind, I was you in all your glory.

From back in the day to the day I too die, I will always be touched by you.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Yup, *Cough* They're At It Again

I have these next door neighbors...

They live in the apartment directly across the small breezeway from me. All their windows face the opposite side of the building from mine, so we share a long common wall that includes the back of our respective walk-in closets, the bathrooms and the kitchens.

I have to say, overall, as far as neighbors go, especially ones so close, I have very little to complain about them. They don't play music or TV at all, it seems and when they have conversations with each other they are quiet and during normal hours. I've spied through the peephole in my door at times when someone knocked at their door and when it was opened I could see, albeit fuzzy and extremely fish-eyed since it was through a peephole, a nice, neat furniture arrangement in there. Their patio which I can see clearly when I walk back there to go to the laundry facility in the next building over has a nice healthy potted palm and a cute black canvas covered umbrella table.

They're a young couple. I met each of them walking either to or from our cars to the door at least twice. The boy looks cute, though hard to tell with his perpetually worn designer-looking sunglasses covering his eyes. He looks to be about mid to late twenties, same as the girl, I'd guess. The girl is somewhat short and tight in build and with a sweet voice. I've only nodded "hello" to either of them but have heard them talk to each other and visitors. It's always in Spanish, of course.

They don't have wild late night parties (that I can tell) and they are probably of some Christian faith since when a couple of Mormon boys came knocking on my door a few months ago, once I quickly dismissed them in as polite a fashion as I could muster, my neighbor opened her door and seemed delighted they had dropped by. The Mormon boys' no-doubt scripted pitch was that they were in need of a "drink of water". It worked easily on her and she relished the idea of providing them refreshment as she eagerly ushered them into her place.

Ideal neighbors, right? Quiet, keep to themselves, no parade of loud visitors, not strange-looking or acting and apparently generous, patient and accepting of strangers.

But here's the rub. Whether it's her or him, I don't know which, but apparently they can't cook. Due to the lovely old duct system in this building, I can smell aromas of cooking food from at least my nearby neighbors. Not so bad. So far as I've been here, it would seem, this couple are the only ones trying to cook anything at all. And when they do, it's always the same item...

Broiled steak, unseasoned, burned to a crisp.

That's it. And sometimes a goodly-amount of it since my apartment will even have a haze of smoke that's wafted its way in from there.

Thankfully it's not everyday. Only once or twice a month I'd say.

Now of course I've never seen, or touched, or tasted this brutalized piece of meat ever, but I've been around a kitchen or two, you know, and I know what steak is supposed to smell like. In fact, good cooks (myself I humbly include into that pack) can use their sense of smell to determine done-ness. I can smell the difference between rare, medium and well. Let me tell you, their hunk o' flesh is cremated!

It's been done enough times to suggest it's not a failure in culinary exploration on the part of a novice. Anyone with even a modicum of cooking sense would learn well from their disaster if it was a mistaken botch up. They live in this building so they're probably not rich. At over $6/pound for just average grade beef, their pocketbook would demand they learn how to cook steak decently without a lot of wasted attempts.

No, they know what their doing. This is how they like it.

Forget Chicago Black and Blue, they make their's Mrs. O'Leary's cow after the fire it caused!

I sure hope I don't by chance get a friendly invite to come over there for dinner anytime. I already know what they'll be serving and frankly, my poor old teeth just couldn't handle it.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Powerlessness Of One

It's said one voice can change the world.

But what's never mentioned is that the absence of of a voice can be just as effective.

Only, in the way that the voiceless one wishes least.


When I was young and hopeful, I yearned silently and secretly for a life in which I could love and embrace another young man and we would be together.

Perhaps, I thought, we would not be honest or truthful about our love for one another to many people outside our close knit friends or family. But it would be a bond that would still be as everlasting and right as those spoke of in fairy tales. You know, the quintessential "and they lived happily ever after".

But I came of age in the dawning era of AIDS and that meant that the perception of the general population of my community, according to the broadcast and print media of the times, was primarily opposed to the mere idea of same sex relationships let alone a life-long commitment between members of the same sex. To them, as uninformed as they were, sometimes due to no fault of their own, they saw homosexuality as simply a blight upon the land, encouraging a plague that should be stricken, lest it affect them and their young. Many came to that conclusion at the hands of both a preacher and the supposed holy words he used as source material. To them my thoughts of an eternal union with another man was an outright abomination.

So I silenced myself. I spoke no more, even when alone, of the dream that I'd one day live in a world where my lover and I would hold hands, hug, and kiss tenderly within eye shot of the rest of the world. Like some monstrous beast I felt, my hopes and wishes were shunned. We were expected to be heard of no more.

Year after year passed and I found no kindred spirit because unless you're looking for one, there's only the guarantee I can say'll probably never find one. Who knows how many a spark I left unnoticed? Who knows how many faint sighs I neglected to hear? Who knows how many potential partners I'd failed to even acknowledge, though perhaps the occasion of our meeting was literally just a blink of an eye? All because I was taught that what I'd wished for could never be.

The famous motto "Power Of One" speaks to the individual who feels that their single voice among the loud blaring of the crowd of millions would still matter if only they would use it.

How true that is. If only to convince yourself of your conviction and determination. Because, for some causes, you may not find a ready gathering of fellow believers at hand and by your side, but do not despair. Because the power of your one voice is hope that your dream will endure if not right away, at least in the long run.

Unlike me, the powerlessness of one.

One who spoke not a word during the numerous bullying I endured in my school days.

Who said nothing when AIDS became a known disease and was attributed to a singular lifestyle out of ignorance, bigotry and bias.

One who sat by and watched family and friends date, become engaged and marry all along thinking I'd never have the opportunity to experience the same joy and fulfillment as them.

Who sits here now, a balding, overweight, middle-aged man with no delusions. I know my time for finding my soul mate has passed. I can only now hope that it's a better climate in this world for younger folks to be free and enjoy the kind of acceptance I never found.

One who sits by watching tearfully as media reports come in, heralding the news of the ongoing struggle for rights equality and the simple, yet elusive ability to give every consenting adult in the land the right to find love, everlasting and lawfully, in the arms of the one they want to spend their life with, no matter who they are.

Thursday, February 02, 2012

Doing My Part To Help America

Tonight I filed my taxes. Basically, what that amounts to is a note telling the IRS that I deserve a part of the money they already took from me over the course of last year.

So, it works out like this...they had taken a total of $1920 and I beg for just $31 back.

They will be able to keep $1889 to help fill the belly of the United States' vast piggy bank.

Oh oh, but the government's ol' ceramic Arnold Ziffel has a few cracks in it...

The National Debt is, at the time of this post, precisely $15,335,533,347,908.70

The e-file site I used says my return will be processed within about a day, so I imagine the government can then remove the $1889 from some kinda holding account, right? And then some government worker in this vast ominously-overbearing and depressing room filled with odd terminals and pneumatic tubes ala Terry Gilliam's "Brasil" will punch the numbers into some funky typewriter/computer thingy and wha la, my money is added into the virtual slot of the virtual piggy bank.

Unfortunately, the debt figure I quoted above will, in just one day have grown by another $3,980,000,000!

But now comes my contribution...

Yay! Thanks to me it will only grow by $3,979,998,111 tomorrow.


Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Snickers Bars Marketed To Stoners

Oh you won't find out the secret ad campaign The Mars Company is conducting in any official white page, like this one, but look at the facts - they're definitely cozying up to the potheads of America hoping to be their sweet-tooth munchie of choice. As if they aren't already...

Now I personally don't partake of the herb very often, maybe once or twice a year; like when I visited Ric's veritable tweakin' twinks opium den just before the holidays, but I know the feeling of getting the munchies. Everything you eat just tastes so good!

Stoners I know like Jay and Gary (back in the day) and now Joe and Zach (well, Joe when he's not in jail and Zach when he's not in the mental hospital...oy vey!) really get into the whole Munchie Ritual.

It's part non-verbal communication and part sensory exploration as each doped-up stoner gorges on their food items (or items) of choice.

Some go for the salty and crunchy stuff like Funyuns or Cheetos but others like the soft and sweet, like Ho Hos, Sno-Balls and Three Musketeers.

I'm pretty sure Snickers are a big time crossover favorite because it satisfies both the salty crunch (peanuts) and soft sweet (nougat and chocolate). Plus you got the caramel which satisfies chewy-sweet lovers (Twizzlers freaks) and oozy-fat lovers (McDonald's french fries quaffers).

Here though is why I think Snickers is going all-out and totally courting the Rasta set:

Their newest variety, Snickers 3X Chocolate, sounds so overboard and extreme...just the thing a doper wants to hear...Extreme Man, Extreme!

The bar comes in two pieces. Perfect for sharing, just like you shared that doobie.

The total calorie count of the bar is exactly 420 calories. 420. Really.

The wrapper can, as indicated, twist to close the remaining piece if you chose just one and want to save the other for later. It really does stay closed with a twist, like some sort of witchcraft or something, man...'cause it's otherwise just a normal wrapper. Far out!

They had a big box of them for sale right on the counter near the register at 7-11 over here on Highway 17-92. And what's right across the street from this store? A "smoke shop" called Pipe Dreams.

I mean c'mon...isn't this proof enough?

EDIT: Damn, I should have waited 5 more minutes to publish this post...