Friday, February 24, 2017

The Square Peg - Zero Dark Thirty

The Square Peg - Zero Dark Thirty
© S. Bradley Stoner

I know y’all are anticipating it. It’s only a week away and I already can hear the grumbling. Oh, it’s at low volume now, but, trust me, it will grow as the week progresses. Yessiree Bob, I’m talkin’ about good old daylight savings time. Thank you, Ben Franklin! That’s right, folks, old Ben came up with the idea in 1784 in an essay he wrote for some French newspaper. Uh huh, he proposed the French get up an hour earlier to make use of the morning hours to save on the cost of candles. Yep, a genuine pioneer of solar power was our friend Franklin. Of course, he was joking, but so enamored of old Ben were the French that they took it as a serious suggestion. Apparently they also lack a sense of humor and don’t understand satire. They probably think “The Onion” reports legitimate news.

Now one might think the French would have been the first to employ this trickery to get up and get to work earlier, but the fact is, they just aren’t that motivated. Remember, they’re the ones that came up with “C’est la vie... c’est la guerre” accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders. It’s sort of like the Mexican “mañana,” which means “whenever” of course. On the other hand, Germany rather liked the idea of engineering time... almost as much as they like engineering everything else. So in order to save fuel for more important pursuits (like invading France), the Kaiser’s official clock setters turned ‘em back an hour before anyone else did.

This took the French completely by surprise. I mean, who would interrupt a person’s morning coffee and croissant by such an impertinent action as lobbing one ton explosive shells across the border? This of course shook Chef des Armées Joffre out of bed and sent his mistress running for cover. It was a rude awakening. The U.S. followed suit in 1918, but cooler heads prevailed after the war and repealed it, only to have it reinstituted in 1942. It was a war thing. But I digress. Back to the future.

My question is this, what do you gain with daylight savings time? Do you get more hours in a day? No. It still takes the earth 24 hours, give or take, to make a full rotation. Do you save money on your power bill? Nope. You just burn your lights on the beginning of the day rather than the end. Do you get more recreational time? Not if you work. And if you’re retired, it doesn’t make a bit of difference.

So what does it do? I’ll tell you what it does. It makes you get up at zero dark thirty for an extra two months. That’s what it does. It gets you out in the commuter lanes while it’s still dark, and it does it during the rainy season. And since folks are driving half asleep, that increases your odds of getting smacked or smacking into someone else. Oh, and it makes all the kiddies go to bed while it’s still light, which is just plain stupid. They’re not going to go to sleep. They’re going to sneak out of bed to play with their toys or fire up that PS2 and turn the volume down. Then they’re going to fall asleep eating breakfast and during class. Then you’ll get nasty notes from their tired, grumpy teacher telling you to enforce bed times. Like that will work.

I’ll tell you what else it does. It makes fuzzy thinkers out of normally bright employees. Why? Because it throws off their natural body clock that triggers the brain to wonder, “Why am I up so early? I need my rest. You want me to work properly? Let me get some sleep you freaking moron.” Of course the previous night it was saying, “Barbeque? Beer? Music? Dancing? Oh yeah! Party on, dude!” Which, of course, you did, rendering your morning brain worthless and hurting to boot. This makes your boss, who’s at least a generation older than you, wonder, ‘What’s wrong with kids these days?’ And he should, given the volume of really stupid ideas hatched by brains that aren’t fully functional. I’m pretty sure this condition is epidemic in the advertising business. It would explain all the really stupid ads coming out.

Don’t worry, though. I don’t blame you. I blame Ben Franklin and his stupid joke... and the French journal that published it as a serious essay. If old Ben were still around, he’d probably revise that clever saying about “early to bed...” Now it would probably go something like, “Late to bed, early to rise will leave your brain anesthetized.”

Y’all don’t forget to set your clocks ahead on the 5th of March. Maybe by the ides you’ll adjust to getting up at a ridiculous hour.

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 jalapeño 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!