Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Square Peg - So I’m like, “It’s literally epic, dude... seriously... it totally is!”

The Square Peg - So I’m like, “It’s literally epic, dude... seriously... it totally is!”
© S. Bradley Stoner

I thought long and hard about writing this. After all, I want to raise young people’s self-esteem, not dash it into the ground. I know each generation develops its own “youth language” to separate itself from the old fogey nation. The generations before mine had terms like 23 skidoo, she’s the bee’s knees, that’s the berries, classy chassis, hep cat, hipster, cool cat, square, copping a bit, getting your kicks, wigging out, and on and on.

My generation had far out, bummer, main squeeze, bad (meaning awesome as in “bad to the bone”), blitzed, funky, groovy, bogart (meaning to steal) aka rip off; from the drug culture we had weed, acid, stoned, doper/stoner, upper, downer, flying, crashing; and from the war, in country (to be in Vietnam), Indian country (enemy held territory), dee dee (run away), Charlie (from the military phonetics Victor Charlie for Viet Cong), FNG ( F_ing New Guy), and any number of colorful combinations of parentage and the “f” word... of course that was sort of pandemic in my generation and those of us who used it sparingly and seldom were considered square. Like people over 30, squares were not to be trusted.

I know the list is long compared to the previous one. Sue me... I know more about this that previous generations’ slanguage. Besides, I gave you only a smattering of it. I’ve forgotten a lot of it. That happens when you get a little age and realize that the rest of the world, particularly those in charge of hiring, neither use nor care for what they see as uncouth and common. Therefore, as one matures, one realizes that vulgarities and plebeian language doesn’t elevate one in esteem or salary. One chooses to embrace a more cultured approach. How’s that for a pompous string of words?

That brings us to today’s slanguage of the younger generation. Who decided every sentence has to be started with “so?” And why is everything :literally” this or that? And do you have to say “I mean” before you tell us what you mean? Every time? Oh, and by the way, not everything is “epic.” And, call your buddies “dude.” I’m not your buddy and I am most certainly not a “dude.” And please, please, stop with the “OMG,” girls, every time you think you need to express surprise, as in, “OMG did you see what she was wearing?!” Unless she wore a thong and a bra to class, it doesn’t require an OMG.

I won’t mention “totally.” Oh yes I will. It’s right up there with “literally.” Very few things are “totally” anything. And for those of you who are wont to say it, you can’t “literally die” and still be walking around. No, Virginia, zombies aren’t real. The only thing eating your brain is that little screen on your cell phone... and please, for your sake and everybody else’s, put that damn thing down when you’re behind the wheel of that two ton wrecking ball. You “literally” could die texting while driving. Seriously. (Oh, and that is a proper usage of that term).

And guys, stop using random unless something really is random. Very few people make “random comments” unless they’re on a psychiatric ward, drunk, or stoned. Also, you don’t make out with “some random girl,” and if you do, I hope you’re carrying protection or you might come home with some random gift you really don’t want. Then you’ll have to visit some random doctor who will give you an antibiotic in a not so random spot and you’ll probably limp for a day or two, which might elicit some random barbs from your not so random buddies, and that’s totally humiliating.

Last, but by no means least, will y’all please quit using acronyms on social media. I’m really getting sick of having to guess at what you are trying to convey or having to Google it. If I wanted to immerse myself in a sea of acronyms, I’d go back to consulting with DoD, EPA, DOE, ICE, OSHA, NASA, WSMR, LANL, LLNL, ORNL, FDA, DEQ, NGB and DNRC on P2, CERCLA,SPCCP, SWMP, EPCRA, TRI, SW, SDWA, NEPA, QRP, HAZWOPER, SUMRA, SUMSA, FLPMA, among others. Seriously. I mean it. Literally. Hmmm.... I've finally reached fogeydom. ROFLMAO!

Thursday, February 9, 2017

The Square Peg - Protection Plans 2
© S. Bradley Stoner

Some years back I wrote a column/blog on protection plans... you know, of the Aetna, Geico, Farmers, Mutual of Omaha, and You-Gotta-No Worries type. Yep, I’m talking insurance here... again. And before I get sued, I’m not singling out any one of those Pillars of the Protection racket... um companies, although I may have a word about health insurers in general, but that’s another story. And, I’m not talking auto insurance. I have great auto insurance at a pretty darn good price. Of course I had to wait a few years before I got those good rates. However, I’ve got to tell you I’d like to have some of that “under 25” premium back, though. Not to mention the higher premiums I paid until I was well past 30. I figure they owe me... you know, for all that investment capital gains they made on my premiums because I never filed a claim until last year. The two accidents I was in before I was 40 were the other guys’ fault, so their insurance had to pay, not mine. Oh well, be that as it may, what I’m talking is homeowner’s insurance.

Why, you might ask, am I peeved about homeowner’s insurance? Thanks for asking. I’ll be glad to tell you. Deductibles, that’s why. Well, one deductible. If my house burns down, gets destroyed by a tornado, or run over by a run-away bulldozer, I’m covered. They’ll replace my house at current market value, and they’ll pay to have whatever is left of my old house to boot. Not bad. Contents of the home, you ask? Yes sir, covered one hundred percent. Of course that cost just a tad more, but not too much considering that over the past sixty plus years I’ve managed to accumulate a lot of stuff. And, because I don’t want any disputes, I have everything cataloged and listed... everything but that electric blue and pink paisley tie my wife keeps trying to hijack to the trash bin. I’ve got pictures stored on a portable hard drive in a fireproof safe. So, it’s all good in those departments.

Nope, I’m talking wind and hail damage to my roof. Seems there IS a deductible on that. It’s the only one. Now I’d read my policy when I first got it, so I undoubtedly saw this minor glitch... um provision. I didn’t give it a lot of thought. The roof on my house is fairly new... it has a lot of life left, so how much damage can a little wind do? Remember, I’m covered for tornadoes, so they don’t count. Also, we’ve never had hail much bigger that pellet size and they certainly don’t do any damage to the shingles. They get baseball and grapefruit sized hail east and west of where we live, but it never (I may be cursing myself by saying this) here. I apparently forgot that this is Texas and it gets what we fondly refer to as “blue northers.”

Blue northers are storms precipitated by arctic lows pushed into our balmy clime by a big U-shaped dip in the ole Jet Stream. They bring with them frigid temperatures (well frigid to us... and the rest of y’all can just quit laughing right now) and wind. We’re not talking ten mile an hour wind either. We’re talking sustained winds out of the north at 40 mph with gusts to 60 or 70+ mph. That’s equivalent to an F0 tornado. If gusts are above 72 mph, it’s equivalent to an F1. But, and this is a very big but in the old insurance world, northers produce straight line winds, so not a tornado. That’s important because 70+ mph winds will relocate shingles on your house, usually to somewhere on your neighbor’s lawn. And, because these are straight line winds, not tornadic, your deductible applies.

Well, it turns out my deductible is a very small percentage of the value of my house. Now you might say, “Great!” After all, a very small percentage is a good thing when it comes to deductibles. Normally, I would agree. HOWEVER... in this case, that very small percentage adds up to a very LARGE chunk of the cost of roof replacement. Matter of fact, it’s such a large chunk that it’s not worth filing the claim for the pittance I’d get. So why does this get my goat? Simple. It turns out wind and hail damage is the most common insurance claim in this area. Given that the deductible only applies to roofs, it’s like betting the odds at a crooked casino. The house always wins, and I’m not talking my house. I’m talking the insurance company.

When I consider that our insurance (and by our, I mean everybody’s) rates increase every year following a major disaster, like a hurricane, or those tornadoes that keep hitting Moore, Oklahoma, or the mudslides in California. Frankly, I’m tired of paying for everyone else’s bad luck and bad decisions. And before somebody calls me out for being callus, let me ask you this, Why would you build, and more importantly rebuild in a known disaster path? I mean, it’s not like folks don’t know that when it rains in California there are going to be mudslides, and if you build on a hill, it’s very likely you will eventually slide down that hill. And how many times does an F5 tornado have to carve a path through a town before folks realize that it might just be a bad idea to build there? I know disasters can happen anywhere, but when experience shows a proclivity for them in a particular area, you’d think folks would get a clue.

“So, why did you build where you knew there were blue northers?”

Oh shut up!

Monday, February 6, 2017

The Square Peg - Super Bowl Sunday

The Square Peg - Super Bowl Sunday
© S. Bradley Stoner

I’ll admit it. I watched the Super Bowl. No, I didn’t have a horse in this race so no favorites for me. Frankly, it was a little hard on me. You see my eldest son’s favorite team is the New England Patriots (unless of course he happens to be at a Texans game). Counter that with an old and good friend whose favorite team is the Atlanta Falcons. I was in a quandary. After all, if I rooted for the Falcons I’d make my friend happy, but then I remembered the look my son gave me when he was little and the team I was rooting for beat his favorite team. At least he didn’t call me Benedict Arnold. I’m sure he thought it, but he didn’t say it. It took almost fifteen years before we could talk football together again. I’d like to say he grew up, but maybe we both have.

Anyway, the game didn’t start until 5:30 our time, which of course is the real time because the game was in Houston. Yeah Texas! The east might have claimed the title, but we claimed their tourist dollars and made more than a few converts to Lone Star long necks and Shiner Bock. That’ll keep those tourist dollars comin’ in. That’s right y’all... come visit, spend your money, and GO HOME! We’re friendly here in Texas, but not that friendly. If you don’t know how to pronounce “chaps” (the kind you wear at a rodeo or on the ranch, not some English dude), don’t like guns, or cactus, don’t overstay your welcome. By the way, chaps is pronounced with an ”sh” start... You know, like Chanel, dip stick. Only drug store cowboys use the other. Sorry... I get a little wound up over that. And, once again, I digress. Seems to be a habit.

Where was I? Oh yeah, start time of the big game. The question was, with the game starting so late, “What to do?” Okay, I killed the first couple of hours in the morning working on my novel... I’m not going to say it’s going to be epic... I’ll leave that to others... if I ever finish it. After that, well fishing season is all year round down here and since I didn’t have time to hit one of the local fishing holes, I thought I’d find a fishing program on the TV. There are usually a lot of them on early Sunday morning. And it was early. Did I mention that since my wife switched her hours she has to be at work by 6 am. That means we’re up at 4:45, so yeah, early.

I hit the couch after doing my walk and weights, picked up the remote, and cranked up the old set (no, I don’t own a flat screen... I own a good old fashioned CRT that I bought in 2004 and it still works great). Do you have any idea what is on TV early Sunday morning? Besides the tele-churches? I’ll tell you what is on. Infomercials. They have shows hawking everything from cutlery to lingerie, jewelry to pressure cookers. You’ll find out that the “new Shark Vacuum” really sucks... literally. That must have copper pan that will revolutionize your cooking because “nothing sticks to it.” Oh, and there’s one that promises you that you will “get ripped” if only you use their method. There’s a bunch of those featuring muscle bound men and svelte women. They kind of offset the plus size and big and tall men channels. There’s even one with some guy who sounds like he’s from Jersey that promises you his “secret” will improve your sex life and goes on to explain how the male apparatus functions. Really? On Sunday for crying out loud. Bottom line, out of the 800 or so channels I get on my satellite dish, I’m pretty sure 720 of them are devoted to infomercials on Sunday morning. Now that sucks!

I turned on the weather channel. They were screening footage from Tornado Alley... not anything recent, just exciting scenes from past seasons. I couldn’t even get the cotton pickin’ forecast. Then I remembered I had an Echo, so I asked Alexa for the weather. Even the weather sucked. High of 67, low of 52 with low clouds, mist, and drizzle all day. Thanks, Alexa... you suck. Her response, “That’s not very nice.” Great, a PC VOX device.

“Alexa, what sound does a whale make?”

“Splash! Just kidding...”

At least now she explains that whales have songs. She used to just start some stupid song about whales that nobody else has ever heard of. And don’t ask her why Google can play whale songs... she’ll just tell you that “Google is a search engine. I’m a different kind of device.” Oh and don’t tell her she’s stupid... you’ll get same answer as when you told her she sucked. At least I can ask her to play The Eagles or CCR and get a couple of hours of music I like.

Where was I? Oh yeah, waiting for the big game. With CCR in the background, I killed the rest of the morning doing laundry, the dishes, and other chores I inherited when my wife went back to work. Oh, I don’t mind. I did them for years before I got married, and then she did them for more than twenty years, so turn about is fair play... and I’m experienced at it. That killed the rest of the morning. Then lunch. I suppose I could make the midday meal a gourmet affair... I have the time, but that’s not the way I roll. I do a tortilla wrap with mesquite turkey and jalapeƱo jack, a few pita chips and another cup of coffee. At least I found a fishing show to watch with my lunch.

I went back to writing until my lovely came home and we spent the next couple of hours catching up on the day’s events. Mostly hers, my day was, well, in a word, boring. Then it was time to throw the pizza in the oven and turn on the game. Wow! What a game. The first half I gleefully watched Atlanta build what the announcers said was “an insurmountable lead.” Second half, guess what? Brady and crew surmounted it and sent the game into the first overtime in Super Bowl history. The rest, you probably already know... it’s been all over the news today. I’m sad for my friend and glad for my son... I hate being conflicted, don’t you?

Oh, and just so you know, Bingo Bob is going to be impossible to live with. We’ll be lucky if Duncan Donutz doesn’t shove his American Eagle up Bob’s wazoo and pull the trigger before the year is out.

Y’all have a great Monday!

Thursday, January 26, 2017

The Square Peg - Time to Get My Cowboy On

The Square Peg - Time to Get My Cowboy On
© S. Bradley Stoner

Let’s rodeo San Antonio! Yep, it’s that time of year again. Time to get out the boots, polish the spurs, and dust off the hat. It’s only a week and a half away. Used to be all I had to do was walk out the door. I was already dressed for rodeo. I kind of had one on my place in the Bitterroot Valley of Montana every day. If not there, then on one of the ranches I worked on. So, boots, spurs, jeans, denim shirt, broad brimmed hat, and sheepskin vest were pretty much the wardrobe of the day... every day. Now, not so much.

There was a time when I swore you’d never catch me in a pair of shorts. Time and Texas heat made a liar out of me. Don’t you hate it when that happens? Oh, I still like my boots and jeans, but around the old homestead shorts and a t-shirt are just way more practical. Besides, I don’t have a back forty or any critters any more. I kind of miss them. My horses were not only my friends, they were transportation and working animals. I rode them hunting. I chased cows on them... even roped from them. To look at me today, you’d never believe that, but it’s true.

A couple of decades of riding a desk and airplane seats have ruined by girlish figure. And no matter how much I walk, how many sit-ups I do, or how many reps on my weight bench I struggle through, it just isn’t coming back. !@#$ it! If only I didn’t like to eat so much. I’m thinking I could benefit greatly from getting back to country living. I never had any trouble keeping weight off there. And, believe me when I tell you this, I ate a lot back then. Conservatively, about twice what I eat now. I just burned it all up. Either that or the tractors and other equipment bounced it off me. Either way... But I digress.

It’s been a couple of years since I went to the rodeo down here. The last time I went, we sat in the nose bleed section. Bulls don’t look nearly as intimidating from that range. I tried bull riding once when I was young. Just once. Those critters are a lot more intimidating up close and personal. The one I got on, gave me a baleful walleyed look as I cinched up the bull rope I’d borrowed from a friend. Well, maybe he wasn’t such a good friend. He was the one who urged me to, “Give it a shot.”

Three or four seconds after the gate opened, I wanted to shoot the bull... and my friend. That critter tossed me so far, so fast that you’d have thought I’d been launched at Kennedy Space Center. And, like they say, “It ain’t the fall that kills ya.” Nope, it’s that sawdust covered arena that feels like a boulder field when you land. I’m not sure what hurt worse, my ribs from the wrenching, my butt from the landing, or my pride as I ran from that snot blowing apparition that decided he wasn’t done with me. Oh and that clown that’s supposed to help riders by distracting those evil bovines? He was too busy laughing. I hate it when that happens.

So, I went back to riding saddle broncs at our local rodeo, which really wasn’t much of a challenge for me since I broke horses for a guy down the road. They didn’t all buck... I actually preferred that they didn’t, but others were twisters, faders, rank, or crow hoppers. After a few weeks of that, you pretty much had a feel for what the cayuse was going to do before he did it. I stayed in the saddle, but I never did make a lot of style points on my rodeo rides. Guess my spurring wasn’t flashy enough. Yeah, yeah, I know... I wandered off subject a little. Not much, though... this is rodeo stuff, isn’t it?

I think I’ll wait until the second week of rodeo to go. When we last went, we saw a concert after the rodeo events. It was Lynyrd Skynyrd... lots of old favorites sung. This year they have a lineup of a bunch of folks I’ve never heard of, but that’s not saying much. I really don’t keep up. But, among those luminaries there are a couple I’d like to see. John Fogerty and Willie Nelson. I keep missing Willie when I go to Lukenbach. And yeah, he and Waylon Jennings show up there from time to time.

Y’all have a nice weekend, now, y’hear?

Saturday, January 14, 2017

The Square Peg - Unsportsmanlike Conduct

The Square Peg - Unsportsmanlike Conduct
© S. Bradley Stoner

It’s playoff time again. I thought last year was bad. Compared to this year, it was a cake walk. Yep, the boys are at it again. They tried to rope me in. Unfortunately I didn’t have a horse (pardon the pun) in the race since Denver didn’t make the playoffs. Their arch rivals, the KC Chiefs did. Me? I’m rooting for Pittsburg, but I’m not sharing that with Bingo Bob or Duncan Donutz. I’m sitting this year’s battle out.

Now ya’ll might remember that Bob is a Seattle fan. Well, last year he was a Panthers fan because Seattle didn’t make it... and he’s still seething about their loss to the Patriots two years ago. I’m for anyone who whups the Seahawks... except the Pats. Seattle was an AFC rival of the Broncos until they switched to the NFC where they at least stood a chance of winning the division. Seattle and the Raiders were teams Bronco fans loved to hate, if you know what I mean. The Pats are a great team, but come on, doesn’t Brady have enough of those rings? I mean, if he wore them all at one time, his right arm would be three inches longer than his left. Hmmm.... maybe it is. That could account for those whip-like deliveries of underinflated fast balls to his wide outs. Oh, sure, like you don’t make fun of Deflategate... so knock off the groans.

In any case, it all got started early this morning. I heard the shouting. While it didn’t shatter my Saturday morning, it did upset the birds and that pee-oed Paula Pettingzoo, who hollered some very unladylike phrases at Duncan and Bob. I was shocked. Since I somehow got appointed referee after the Wildcard round, I felt duty bound to step in and keep the peace. I saw Duncan jump the count and quickly flagged him for offsides unabated to the armchair quarterback. I got it in time to prevent a call of roughing the gasser. Bob was grateful, but Duncan was pissed.

“I was drawn off, bozo!” he shouted.

“Watch it, bub,” I replied, “talking to the ref like that could cost you another ten...”

Bob decided it was the perfect time to run a counter play, and that’s never a good thing.

“You tell him, ref!” he hollered, rushing up.

That kind of ticked me off, so I flagged Bob just on general principles. “Unnecessary gruffness. Those penalties will offset. Get back to your own side of the line of scrimmage. Replay the down!”

They retreated to their own side of the street, standing on their respective curbs and glaring at each other. Then Bob committed the arch error of insulting both Texas teams, but really laid it on the Texans. That’s something you just don’t do in San Antonio... or anywhere else in Texas. Just as I was reaching for the flag, Duncan delivered a devastating comeback.

“You’ll put a sock in that Jersey Boy mouth, or I’ll do it for you. I’m sick of those Beantown Bimbos dancing their way to the big one. Houston is going to be Mercilus on those Patriot...” Well, it was a not so nice epithet, so I’ll just leave it unsaid. And that Mercilus thing... I put that spelling in... I couldn’t resist it. Whitney Mercilus is a heck of a good outside linebacker for the Texans.

Anyway, I thought that last epithet was kind of uncalled for. I was about flag them both for Unsportsmanlike Conduct, when they both started to cross the street... and that’s encroachment! Out came the yellow flag. It looked so pretty floating in the gap between them, until they closed the gap and the weighted end bounced off Duncan’s forehead and smacked Bob right in the nose. Duncan rubbed his head, Bob rubbed his nose and they both turned to glare at me.

“Double unsportsmanlike conduct,” I shouted. “Double ejection... each of you go to your locker room.”

They continued to glare at me. I did the wise thing... “Game time,” I yelled and beat a quick retreat.

Oh, and hey! If both the Texans and Cowboys win their conference championships.... yeah, that’ll never happen, but a Texan can dream can’t he?