Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Fluorescent Light Bulbs a.k.a My Arch Nemesis

I've spent a lot of time over the last two months lighting and re-lighting our furnaces. I had a friend and even a repairman come out to look at them but our furnaces are just getting old and it's common for me to have to light the pilot light several times a day which is a pain, but much cheaper than replacing old furnaces.

For those of you who are not familiar with the process of lighting a furnace let me share the joy. You first take off a noisy metal cover and then find the knob that controls the gas. You turn it to "pilot" and press it down hard as you light a match and try to fit your fat hand through a small space until you can get the match back to the pilot light before the match burns out. Getting my hand back to the pilot light is similar to when a rodent compresses it's body flat in order to sneak under a door or other opening it has no right fitting in. Once you light it and you see the flame you still have to keep pushing down on the pilot knob for about a minute or until your thumb goes numb. Then you can release it and slide it to the on position. Re-lighting a furnace is a pain, but one thing I hate infinitely more is changing fluorescent light bulbs.

I am grateful for fluorescent lights and appreciate the illumination and energy savings they provide but it is 2017 and there has to be a better way to connect them than trying to fit the Frankenstein neck bolts in the metal housing and then twisting them around hoping it will fit in and stay without shattering a glass tube in your hand. It is also common for the old brittle plastic end pieces of the light that you are trying to fit it into to crack and break during this process.

Because I am tall I have been the victim of genetic profiling all my life. People always say "You are tall can you switch this bulb out for me?" Each time this happens I comply and silently give myself a pep talk that this time it will be easier and smoother than the last time I tried. After I remove the plastic cover and watch the dead flies and bugs slide out, I remove the burnt bulbs. As I attempt to put new ones in I hear the noise of metal prongs scratching on the metal light frame interior which is even worse than fingernails on a chalk board.

I usually need to stand on a ladder or chair with my hands over my head for much longer than I'd like. Sometimes I end feeling like the soldier in Unbroken but instead of holding a heavy wooden beam I am holding a glass tube that weighs at least 3 or 4 ounces. Also nobody will shoot me if I lower my arms but besides that it is a pretty accurate analogy.

I'm sorry to complain about my first world problems and how inconvenient it is for me to have heat and light but with all the advances in technology how have we not improved the ease of changing long fluorescent light bulbs? If you think I'm just an incompetent wimp then you haven't changed enough fluorescent light bulbs.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Cold Weather

If you've read this blog you know I am not a fan of cold weather. Rather than complain and whine about the cold I thought I'd just share some funny winter weather memes I came across recently. Enjoy.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

The celebrity deaths of 2016

2016 has been a rough year for losing many artists, entertainers, and celebrities. Below is a small portion of those who have passed away this year. It's enough to make you want to put some of your favorite entertainers into protective custody so we can make it through 2016 without further losses. It shouldn't be a big surprise since famous people die every year. 2014 was a rough year for entertainers but 2015 was not quite as bad. 2016 has made up for it.

David Bowie  
George Michael
Glen Fry
Mahammud Ali
Nancy Reagan
Gene Wilder
Garry Shandling
Craig Sager
Carrie Fisher
Kenny Baker
Abe Vigoda
Alan Rickman
Peter Vaughan
Florence Henderson

All of the celebrities listed above impacted my life to some degree and I am grateful for their contributions and wish them and their family and fans the best. At the same time I have noticed a trend that I find amusing. It is the need some people have to seek attention by telling everyone that they are grieving more than everyone else since they were their biggest fan. This could be true in some cases but I suspect many people like to hop on the grieving bandwagon for some celebrities they know next to nothing about.

One of my favorite scenes from The Office perfectly demonstrates this. You can click on this  Office Clip and watch to see how Ryan was in so much pain when he thought Smokey Robinson had died and how little he knew about him when pushed on the subject. If you didn't just click on the video link you really should. It is funny and only takes 2 minutes of the episode. Seriously, do it.

I've seen the same thing happens with bandwagon followers in sports. Ask anyone who claims to be a hardcore life long Golden State Warriors or Los Angeles Clippers fan. You will find that few of them can name more than a couple players from their favorite team from more than 5 years ago.

I am not trying to play the role of "fan police" or tell people who they can like and how they should react when a celebrity dies, but you have to admit there is plenty of superficial grief going around. I'd also like to give you a heads up that there will be many people you grew up being entertained by who will die in 2017 so we will probably go through this same thing again at the end of next year.

It's been sad to see so many entertainers pass away this year and as I continue to age I'm afraid it will only get worse each year, but what is even more disturbing is watching Keith Richards suspiciously getting younger and more powerful each year.

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Don't Judge a Book By Its Cover

It's been a while since I've posted anything on this blog so today I'd like to write about judging. I have noticed that many people are guilty of profiling, pre-judging, and not giving things a fair shake in many areas of life. I am frequently guilty of this too. I have never eaten lobster, crab, calamari, oysters, snails, etc. because I am too smart to put any of that crap in my mouth.  I understand what Doctor Seuss was trying to teach with "Green Eggs and Ham", but seriously have you seen and smelled sea food?

That also reminds me of the first time I came across the book "Atlas Shrugged" and couldn't believe it had over 1,000 pages and no pictures. I told myself there was no way I was going to read a book like that and that I would wait for the movie to come out. When the movie finally did come out years later it was only mediocre at best. I guess I not only judged the book but the movie too.

Even though I am often guilty of it, I believe we should not jump to judgement without getting all the facts. One thing that sickens me is when I read a news story online and it is followed by all of the armchair quarterbacks who quickly condemn the accused with comments like "string them up" or "they should not be allowed to have children". I certainly believe justice needs to be done when people do bad things but we need to wait until we have given someone a fair trial and gotten all the facts.

Years ago I heard one of my kids scream and cry in another room. I ran into my boy's room and saw the smaller brother on the ground crying and the bigger brother holding a large stick which he had been using as a play sword. I immediately grabbed it from him and broke it over my knee. I later found out that the younger brother just hurt himself jumping off his bed. The older brother had just come in the room to see what happened right before I got there. Because I made a likely assumption I dished out punishment by breaking his sword when it was not deserved.

When I worked in retail I heard many stories of wealthy people who didn't look the part and were treated poorly and not taken seriously by salesmen due to their appearance. I love hearing how they later come back and pay cash for a truck or other large purchase and make sure a different sales associate or dealership that treats them right gets the commission and their business.

One of my favorite quotes is from Deter Uchdorf when he told about a bumper sticker he saw that said "Don't judge me because I sin differently than you." It is true that nobody is perfect and we don't need self-righteous people making unfair judgement. We obviously shouldn't jump to conclusions or have knee jerk reactions when it comes to judging but there is obviously a time and a place to judge.

Some people tell us we should never judge others. I don't think those people realize all that entails. I would ask any married person why they chose their spouse over the many other candidates they have known or dated over the years? Wasn't that judgmental to pick one person over all of the others? Are you going to vote in November? You probably made some judgement calls when it comes to choosing a political party to affiliate with and when it comes to electing your leaders.

I recently heard a friend share an interesting experience he had when he was working as an attorney at the county courthouse. He said he ran into a man in the lobby who was headed into court and was wearing a dirty tank top and casual clothes. In an effort to help the guy out he suggested he would have more success if he changed clothes before he go before the judge. The guy flipped out and said it was ridiculous if he was going to be judged by his appearance. He then proceeded to ask my friend some additional questions about the court proceedings. My friend asked him "what makes you think I would know that?" the guy in the tank top said well you are obviously an attorney and have more experience than I do. When asked how he knew he was an attorney he said he could tell from the way he was dressed. My friend said "so it's okay for you to make assumptions and judge me on my appearance but not for a judge to do so with you?"- Touche!

I'm just rambling on now but I thought it would be appropriate to remind everyone that 1) We shouldn't rush to judgement or judge people strictly on appearance, and 2) there are times to judge in life and it's important for us to be responsible and wise when we are required to make those judgement calls.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Insulting TV Programming

I grew up watching a ton of TV shows. I've seen every episode of MASH, Brady Bunch, and Gilligan's Island. I regularly watched Happy Days, Fantasy Island, the Love Boat, Charlies Angles, Dukes of Hazzard, The Incredible Hulk, Starsky and Hutch,The Jeffersons, Magnum PI, and MTV when they actually used to play music videos.

Over time I was able break my addiction to watching TV. I have not had cable for nearly 15 years and don't have any TV reception so the only time I watch television programs is when I look them up on Netflix. Once or twice a year I travel and end up sitting in a hotel room with time to kill and I usually end up turning on the TV and returning like a dog to it's vomit. I should know better. Here are some of my latest insights after flipping through channels for way too long over the weekend.

I'm sure there are some quality programs on TV but they are few and far between. Please don't take offense with the comments that follow if I describe one of your favorite shows but I can't but help share some of these observations. First of all I think there are too many channels. While flipping through channels I would just pass ones like QVC, CSPAN, the weather channel, etc. but there was still so many lame programs

I was shocked to see how many channels have dedicated programming for murder mystery stories about spouses who kill each other and get caught ten years later. I can not believe how many investigative reports featured a mix of CSI, law enforcement, court room action, and investigative reports which take an hour to come to the conclusion that a husband or wife killed their significant other due to in affair or for insurance money.

If you want to add more depression to the abundance of murder shows you can watch reality TV shows about prisons. One of these shows featured regular people who go under cover and act like a prisoner to gain information for the warden. I was really surprised when some of the prisoners guessed who the mole was. Could it possibly be they guessed the guy who showed up to prison with a camera crew?

There are many home improvement shows which are actually kind of uplifting and fun but they still follow the standard insulting reality show formula of having 30 minutes of actual content mixed with 20 minutes of commercials combined with the last 10 minutes which is the worst part...showing the same scenes 3 or 4 times as a preview before and after commercials and with their summaries and recaps throughout the program. It is so frustrating when they keep rewinding the content and showing the same snippets over and over. You can catch any of these shows for just the last 20 minutes and not miss a thing since it will all be reviewed for you over and over again. PLEASE STOP DOING THAT!

Then there were all the sports commentary shows, commercials, and infomercials. I have concluded that TV programming is catered to idiots and we must be a country of idiots since we lick the stuff up. That includes this idiot who can go for hours clicking through channels and watching mind numbing crap for way too long.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

My Money Fantasy

Today I'd like to discuss a heated topic: MONEY. I've had an unhealthy relationship with money for most of my life. I remember earning and saving money easily during my teenage years and shortly after I got married when life was so simple, but then something happened. I'm not really sure what changed over the years but I have not felt like money has been my ally for some time.I would really like to create a more harmonious relationship with money.I know money can't buy happiness, but happiness can't buy groceries either. Having money can give you options and reduce a lot of stress and misery in your life.

I sometimes find myself being jealous or angry when I see some people who seem to be so prosperous with just about anything they do. This is especially true when they are much younger than me. (Yes I'm talking to those tech nerds who dropped out of college and are billionaires today.) I know appearances are often deceiving and many people who are trying to keep up with the Jones's look good on the outside but are a mess behind the scenes. Even so, some people are able to earn money almost effortlessly and it seems they have the Midas touch while others are killing themselves just trying to survive

Despite my jealousy of the rich and the financial inequality that exists in the world I still have a hard time blaming the rich for my problems. I have noticed that is an increasing popular philosophy and political tactic these days. I know there are some super rich people who are dishonest and corrupt but that doesn't apply to most wealthy people. I also don't believe in scarcity mentality or that there is just a fixed amount of pie for us to all share. Anyway this is not a political rant. It is about my fantasy.

For the longest time I've had a recurring dream about getting a large briefcase full of cash. It is a metal briefcase with locks and is full of at least $75,000, but probably much more. I imagine what bills I would pay off with it and what repairs I would make and how much stress it could alleviate from my life.
As appealing as this fantasy scenario is to think about, I know there is no such thing as a free lunch and money should be earned and not just wished for. Aside from the integrity issue with this money for nothing scenario, I have an even greater concern about how this could actually happen. If you came across a suitcase full of money up in the mountains or wilderness what would you do? You know if you took it to whatever federal agency had jurisdiction of that area you would not see one cent. Would you put an ad in the paper or turn it over to the police? If you decided to just take it, then you would be looking over your shoulder forever. You could pretty much count on this guy showing up within a day or two no matter how careful you were.

Since it is my responsibility to provide for my family, I've tried to improve my finances by utilizing programs for money management over the years. Dave Ramsey's "Financial Peace University" is very thorough but I tire of hearing him talk down to people whose financial lives are a mess and tell people to go deliver pizzas and eat rice and beans. He speaks the truth but it is harsh and often unpleasant to hear. He also focuses on just debt reduction. I recently used another course called "Turn Your Debt into Wealth" by John Cummuta and it was pretty solid and he does not try to sell you anything either, just good information. Another program I thought was helpful was Financial Fitness by Life Leadership. They provide 47 laws of financial fitness and address the offense and defense of finances so it's not just about budgeting and paying off debts.

As appealing as it is to wish for money, I'm afraid the keys to good finances boils down to the following:

  • Providing others with a product of service of value that they are willing to compensate you for.
  • Having a healthy relationship with money and realizing it is just a tool. 
  • Being a good steward of your resources and budgeting and using them responsibly.
  • Blessing and helping other people with your wealth which definitely includes giving me a briefcase full of $75,000. ( I would even pay taxes on it.)
You never know if names like Gates, Buffett,  Branson, Walton, Dell, or Zucherberg may be reading this so it doesn't hurt to ask. 

PS- Thanks in advance and please don't forget the metal briefcase. 

Saturday, February 13, 2016

My Silverware and Middle Earth

My family has gone through a lot of silverware over the last 25 years. I'm afraid our silverware drawer is made up of two or three different sets with several more stray pieces thrown in so our flatware doesn't always match. I think we may even have a few spoons that pre-date the Civil War. Since we don't entertain guests in the formal dining hall with polished silver like they do on Downton Abbey, it's not really a big deal. I'm usually just happy to find some kind of clean implement I can use to shovel food into my mouth but sometimes I can get picky since some of our eating utensils bug me.

My in-laws have amazing flatwear. Each piece feels like a work of art since they are the perfect size,  with ideal weight, ergonomics, and balance. It is truly a therapeutic experience and good for your soul to eat with their silverware. Anyway, back to our crappy silverware...I am including a picture of the variety of styles of silverware found at my house. Some of these remind me of different characters or realms from The Lord of the Rings. I'm including a reference photo below so you can see what I'm talking about. 

The first 4 items on the top row represent the more slender, long, filigree style which remind me of elves. The next 6 spoons are just to show you how many different unmatched styles of spoons we have. The bottom 5 are wimpy fairy utensils and make me feel like a little child when I use them. The last three represent the gigantic troll or heavy dwarf spoon, knife, and fork. I prefer utensils made for the kingdom of men which are the three in the center of the bottom row. When my kids set the table and I sit down to a lame fork and spoon I remind them that I am not an elf or a dwarf I tell them to find me a fork worthy of King Aragorn. They know what that means and usually find me items from the human collection.

After starting this post I came across some Elven flatware on the Internet. I've attached a picture of it so you can see the distinct  elegant style an elf would use. I'm afraid I'd have to grow my hair out and pluck my eyebrows before I could use the set below.

Until the day finally comes when I have a fine set of matching silverware to rule them all, I will just need to keep switching forks and spoons with the other place settings when I sit down to a meal. My other option is to just eat with my hands like Gollum. He never had such first world problems.