Wednesday, September 29, 2004

SUV Owners Suffer New Disease

Drive around any parking lot and you're bound to start thinking someone painted the parking space lines all wrong, or that they're invisible to everyone but you. But when you look more closely, you'll notice that the nameplates on the vehicles parked in these spaces usually say something like 'Suburban', 'Excursion' or 'Hummer.'

There's nothing wrong with large SUVs unless you count the fact that they're guzzling precious fossil fuels at double or triple the rate of, say, a Sherman Tank. No, the problem lies with the folks who buy these gargantuan 'family' vehicles so they can navigate the mean streets of suburbia through waist-high water in living room comfort.

I have no scientific data to back my claim, but I believe owning or leasing a large SUV renders you incapable of inserting your vehicle into a parking space without touching or straddling the border lines. In an empty lot, the first SUV driver can't help but encroach on at least 1 additional space! Not a problem when the lot is empty, but when large numbers of SUVs converge (and they will, count on it) it creates a domino effect. In defiance of all natural and mathematical laws, a posse of 8 SUVs can tie up an entire lot intended for 100 normal cars!

My solution to this problem is simple: Require SUV owners to pass a test! If they can't get all four tires between the lines of a single, normal-sized parking space on the first try, they should never be allowed to drive one again. They must also articulate the need for a 3-ton vehicle to drive their kids to and from school.

If you already own one of these behemoths and don't meet the above criteria, don't'll recoup your investment by installing running water and renting it out as student housing!

Monday, September 27, 2004

Hurricane Doofus

Help Wanted:
Hurricane Field Reporter
The Weather Station is looking to replace one of its reporters who is now a human kite somewhere over North Carolina.

Qualifications: Must have a death wish. Must be capable of withstanding 100+ mph winds (120+ preferred), be an expert at dodging flying shingles and look good while doing it. You will be subject to a wind tunnel test and a dodgeball game in which you will face 50 people using catapults while being sprayed by a fire hose.

Educational Requirements: The less you know, the better.

At the Weather Station, we take storm coverage seriously! That's why we sacrifice, er, employ only the finest for our storm coverage teams. Please submit your resume and references including your minister, physician and next of kin.

What's the purpose of these live broadcasts? The people being most affected by the storm are hunkered down trying to stay alive and they already know what's happening. With no power, do they really benefit from Mr. Doofus standing out there on camera? And why are hurricanes an acceptable risk? No one puts on an asbestos suit and reports from the middle of a forest fire!

What I really want to see is a storm reporter get lifted into the air, use his microphone cord as a tether and report live from inside the actual storm. This may actually be the next competetive move by the networks - allowing their people to be swept up by the storm and reporting on conditions as they fly through it (MY idea - if you steal it I'll sue you!).

Risking peoples' lives to deliver storm news is crazy. We have the technology to put cameras into outer space and on the surface of Mars. Couldn't we deploy remote cameras and weather instruments to the most dangerous spots? What we really want to see is floating buses and buildings being torn apart! Why can't the reporter be inside, monitoring feeds from cameras recording the greatest devastation?

Maybe I'm the one who has it wrong, but I'll be damned if I'm going to sit there and watch another minute of Mr. Doofus leaning and squinting into the wind trying to operate his little whirlygig. Hmm, that sounds a bit like another activity...

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Tales from Techville

All of us techies have stories to tell and I'm no exception. Here are some true stories from the land of techies:

This one was related to me by my friend, who was in charge of the company-wide XP rollout...
Corporate User: You can't install that on MY PC!
My Friend: No problem! Show me the receipt in your name and I'll move on.

Only my final response is made up - it's what I wish I had said...
Me: You'll need to open a help desk ticket for that.
Female User: Well then, do I need a ticket to go the bathroom too?
Me: Yes please, so we'll know when to activate the spycam.

This Sr. Tech never lived it down...
Sr. Tech: Why won't this #*&@#! CD Writer work?
Other Tech: Try putting the CD in with the label up next time.

If there's one thing I can't stand, it's an executive who thinks you're his slave...
Senior Director: My laptop is broken and I need a new one!
Tech: What happened to it?
Sr. Director: I don't know - all I did was drop it on the floor. NOW GET ME ANOTHER LAPTOP IMMEDIATELY!!
Tech: Since you asked so nicely, I'll get on that right away. What shall I tell your VP when I ask for approval?

This tech was new to our company and thought he knew everything, except what they teach in beginning Novell classes...
Tech: I'm a CNE*, I'm a CNE, I'm a CNE, I'm a CNE! Did I mention that I'm a CNE?
Me: Wow, that's great - you must be so proud!
Tech: I'm a CNE! How am I going to get this PC working with no operating system? Also, I'm a CNE.
Me: Make a boot disk, then you can boot up and load the software over the network.
Tech: And HOW do I make a boot disk?
Me: You're the CNE - figure it out!
*CNE = Certified Novell Engineer

Personal experience, though my responses weren't nearly this diplomatic...
Programmer: My computer won't start!
Me: What happened?
Prog: Well, my Zip Drive quit working and I tried to fix it.
Me: How did you try to fix it?
Prog: I deleted the IDE disk drivers from my computer - and some other files in the system directory.
Me: That makes sense. How 'bout I spend the next 3 hours working on your PC?
Prog: Umm, OK.
3 Hours Later...
Me: There you go.
Prog: Wow, and my Zip Drive is working too! How did you fix it?
Me: I ignored all the other tech support calls for the building so I could concentrate on your problem. Freeing my mind in this manner enabled me to come up with the solution.
Prog: Really?
Me: No, I just connected the Zip Drive to the correct port on your PC.

More Tales from Techville in the future!

I found a terrific book on ADD, but got distracted after the first few paragraphs!

Does This Mirror Make Me Look Fat?

Yesterday I was checking myself out in the mirror after a shower (snicker if you will, but YOU do it too!)...more on that in a moment.

I found at a very early age that no matter how slender I was, I could push my belly way out to look as though I was carrying a bowling ball (or a small child) under my shirt. Even in college when I was doing 300 sit-ups a day, I could turn my chiseled abs into an orb roughly the size of a pumpkin (unfortunately, this requires much less effort than it used to). Then, in a flash I could return my belly to its original size and shape (this requires MORE effort now).

I bet you can guess that I was performing my belly routine in front of the mirror. Further experimentation with slouching shoulders and a droopy face made me look even more out of shape. On the flip side, thanks to my re-commitment to cardio and weightlifting, I can pull it all in, stand up straight and look even more fit than I actually am!

As I stood in front of the mirror, chanting "before", "after", "before", "after", I had an idea: I could be a BEFORE and AFTER model! You know, like the supplement ads you see in the Enquirer where the guy looks like a total slob, then in the after pic looks like a muscular slob with a wax and dye job wearing tan-in-a-can. Well, I can look WAY worse and WAY better than HIM (I mean worse in the before picture and better in the after pic, smartass). What's even better is I can make this transformation instantaneously!

My next step is to market myself. I'll need some good "before and after" pics and a list of supplement and excercise equipment companies. You can get Christie Brinkley and other celebs to promote these things, but THEY WERE BEAUTIFUL TO BEGIN WITH. To really sell this stuff you must create the illusion of success. That's where I come in...

Picture me in 'before' mode on the screen. The announcer says "In 20 minutes, the all-new 'CyberGym' will transform this grotesque genetic failure into Al Roker!" "We'll check in with Mr. Before throughout our brainwashing, er, infomercial. Later, we'll show you the amazing result!" Testimonials from celebrities and low-lifes who never even saw the product follow, with shots of Mr. Before (me) working out scattered among them. Then at the end, the FINAL REVEAL! There I stand in after mode, looking studly with mostly-naked women pretending to adore my fine physique. "Folks, we'll let the results speak for themselves. With enough money, YOU can have these women, too!" the announcer says, "But buy a CyberGym anyway - because we said so!"

Granted, this won't work on everyone, but the ovine masses will snap 'em up like popcorn. Later, as the dust settles on Mr. Neverstoodachance's CyberGym, he'll be watching me slouch for the camera while the TV announcer says "Say hello to Mr. Pre! In 20 minutes, our all-new "InstaMuscle" herbal supplement will transform this grotesque..."

Ahh, a dream fulfilled - combining job security with natural talent! Well, I'd better get back to my before and after excercises - I'll see you on HSN!

Monday, September 13, 2004

Urban Lawn Care

Whew! I can rest easy now, knowing that my lawn has been aerated. For those of you who live under a rock, aerating your lawn is of critical importance! In fact, you should stop reading this RIGHT NOW and go aerate your lawn. Otherwise, you'll be excluded from the impromptu neighborhood discussions that take place regarding lawn care. AND you'll be encouraging the terrorists who are out to deny you the freedom of aeration through intimidation and fear.

Basically, aerating your lawn is like working out at the gym for 2 hours when you really don't feel like going. If you don't work out, it's like going to the gym out of shape and working out for 7 hours. To properly aerate, you need an 'aerator.' This machine looks like a 300-pound torture device, which it is. It resembles a tiller but it's 18 times heavier and has a sort of roller with long metal tubes sticking out of it in the back. These tubes perforate the ground, leaving little holes and dirt plugs that look like terrier poop. To aerate, you lower the rear of the machine, then engage the roller. If you're not paying attention when you do this, your arm will become detached at the shoulder and hitch a ride on the aerator as it moves away in tank-like fashion. To stop, you simply pry your arm from the engage handle, which (you guessed it!) disengages the roller.

Now comes the fun part - turning around. Aerators are designed to make this as difficult as possible. If you've played defensive tackle or dabbled in sumo, you can lift the back of the aerator and turn it by pivoting on its front wheels. Otherwise you must lower the rear wheels (which raises the roller off the ground) to maneuver into position. Your best bet is to do long runs, zig-zagging back and forth until you finish a section of yard or puke, whichever comes first. Don't even try to go around a curve or tight corner with the roller engaged - remember, your neighbors are waiting for a good laugh and you needn't give them the satisfaction.

Once you're done and recuperating at the hospital, you'll look back on your experience with pride - knowing you're done aerating for this year and your lawn will still look just as crappy as it did before! BUT, your neighbors will respect you and you'll proudly stand (once you're discharged) among them as you all wonder why in the world you didn't hire a sumo wrestler or avoid aerating altogether. So, get out there and AERATE TODAY!

room 237 at the county hospital

Friday, September 03, 2004

Hey! Move Over!

One of the biggest adjustments I've had to make since moving to NC has been my driving style. OK - I didn't really change my style, because I REFUSE to be like all the other NC drivers. I miss the in-your-face style of the Northeast - you're all trying to get somewhere in a big hurry and if someone gets in your way you're expected to honk, gesture, cut them off and scream (with the windows down for full effect). The really cool thing is that other drivers who witnessed the 'infraction' (and a few who didn't) will join gleefully in honking, gesturing, etc. until the offending driver gets the point.

Here in North Carolina, you're allowed to stop your car in the middle of the street to have a 10-minute conversation with your neighbor who is out walking his dog - because what you have to say just can't wait until your car is in your garage 100 feet away. The bizarre thing is that the 16 motorists stuck behind you will wait patiently until you've finished your conversation. If they know you (or your neighbor), they might even get out of their car and join in the fun! Now, some of you are thinking "Ain't that nice? I wish we had that kind of community where I live!" I encourage all who feel this way to head up to NJ and try it out - PLEASE! That way we won't have to deal with you ever again.

Actually I'm a 'share the road' kind of guy. Unfortunately, this doesn't fly in NJ. Shortly after moving there, I was driving on a busy highway and noticed someone trying to make a turn to get onto the same road. In my cluelessness, I slowed down and motioned for the other driver to pull onto the road in front of me. This shocked him to the point that he could not move, and the horns started sounding behind me. By the time he snapped out of it, it was too late. The horns kept blaring and the guy I tried to help stared daggers at me as I passed.

It took me a couple more times to figure out that drivers in NJ didn't want my help. They'll wait for the tiniest opening, cut someone off and risk their lives rather than accept charity. But somehow, it works. In 5 years of commuting 30+ miles each way, I can remember only 2-3 serious highway accidents. This is good because if there's an accident on a NJ highway, your best bet is to get off at the next exit (assuming you can get there), get a motel room and wait 'til the next day to get back on the road. (Tip: Back-roads don't work when there's an accident in NJ because 1,000,000 other motorists are all trying the same thing!)

Given a choice, I'll take NJ driving any day. It's easy to allow for traffic patterns and plan your trip accordingly. The problem in NC is you don't know how many 'conversations' and pokey-left-lane-drivers (a great way to commit suicide in NJ) you're going to run into. Sometimes I drive on I-95 in NC just to get a taste of what I'm missing. You see, I-95 is how everyone in the Northeast gets to Florida (they all go there eventually), so there's bound to be a bunch of 'Yankees' on it at any given time.

Maybe I'll head over there today. It's always good to be among horns - and friends :).

Wednesday, September 01, 2004

Malathion gets a bad rap.

How I miss the old days when the fogger would come through my neighborhood, spreading the poison which kept us mosquito-free. Of course, we had disfigured animals, babies with 3 heads, etc., but we could walk outside, confident in the fact that the peskiest of pests had been eradicated.

It ain't so simple anymore. Morris County, NJ has one of the best mosquito control divisions in the country. Teams of biologists head out into the forests (yes, they have those in NJ!) and fields to search out and destroy mosquito breeding grounds. I don't ever remember getting mosquito-bitten in NJ. Maybe they're afraid of the Teamsters.

Anyway, the result of all this science in NJ is that ALL THE MOSQUITOES COME TO NORTH CAROLINA! That's right - we plow, plant, cultivate, spray and even lobby to keep our tobacco plants healthy, but god forbid we should lay one finger on a mosquito! The first year I was here, all the neighbors said the mosquitoes were the worst ever. Since then, it's gotten worse.

I'd gladly ask my wife (who works for a living, unlike me) to kick in an extra buck or two in taxes each year if the city, county or state would step up and do something about the damn mosquitoes. Already, birds and horses in remote parts of NC (where people keep their gun by the door and their teeth in a jar) are getting infected with West Nile, encephalitis and god knows what other skeeter-borne diseases. And what do we do about it? We WARN people!! Yeah, that always works. So I'm thinking of buying stock in Off and Cutter, since I keep a 55-gallon barrel of Deet on the porch to dip my daughter in when she goes outside to play.

Maybe when our babies' heads swell up like melons we'll do something about it, like bring back Malathion. Hmm, swollen heads or 3 healthy ones - you decide.