Saturday, February 28, 2009

Shoe Tying Efficiency

Last week I saw my 12 year old tie his shoes and was horrified as I noticed that he put an extra step into the process for no apparent reason. While I was trying to bring this to his attention and correct the problem some of my other kids came to his support and said they tie their shoes the same way. At that moment I felt the pains of a neglectful parent as I realized I had never had "the talk" with any of my kids about how to tie their shoes. As a result they have turned to friends and other sources for that information and now they incorporate unnecessary steps into the knot. Some of the younger ones have even turned to Velcro to remedy their plight. This may not seem like a big deal to some people, but if you calculate all the extra time they take over a lifetime of tying shoes it can add up to a lot of wasted time. To show them that my way was superior we had shoe tying races and I smoked them every time.

This is a topic that some people might try to dismiss but I think it has been brushed under the carpet long enough and needs to be addressed. As a society we need to finally figure out at what point a person is at their peak for tying their shoes. I have seriously wondered about this for years but there have been no experts to answer my question. I have not seen any scientific studies addressing this topic and if you thought the government's response was slow for Hurricane Katrina then you would really be disgusted with how little they have done to promote shoe tying efficiency.

It's obvious that little kids struggle and are slow when they first learn how to tie their shoes but they get faster with time. The elderly are usually slower with their diminished motor skills so there is obviously a middle area when a person exhibits the maximum speed and efficiency. I think it would be beneficial to everyone if we could pinpoint the exact time an adult starts the down hill trend of being less efficient at tying their shoes. This could be labeled as a major turning point in one's life. Thankfully, the contest I had last week with my kids confirmed that I am still in my prime.

My personal opinion is that top performance is achieved in the late 20's, although I think I'm still lightning fast for being twice that age. Take some time this week to discuss this issue with your family. I hope I'm not the only person who is concerned about this topic and am willing to do something about it.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

2012: The End of The World?

Several years ago I saw a program on the Discovery Channel which told about the Mayan calendar and it's prediction that the world would end in 2012. Since then I have noticed that this idea is gaining momentum as that date grows closer. I even saw a movie trailer the other day for the movie 2012. I have encountered several people who believe that the world will really end in just under 3 years. I spoke with one guy who cashed out his retirement and said if it doesn't end in 2012 then he will just start saving up again. He's probably not counting calories either.

Having survived the horrors of Y2K (which was pretty much just listening to reporters and experts speculate about how bad everything could have been) I think I am qualified to give some advice about the end of the world. I am grateful that we did not have to deal with the uprising of the machines and total chaos and predicted anarchy of 2000 but I don't think we will get off so easy this time.

First of all, believing that the world will end soon could be a dangerous thing for some groups of people. Those with the eat drink and be merry mentality could do some damage to society if they think "why bother if these are my last 3 years?". On the other hand, it might actually be a good thing for people with a conscience who believe that the end is very near. Those who believe in a higher power and a pending judgement may improve their behavior and maybe now they will stop putting the empty milk jug back in the fridge because they are too lazy to throw it away.

Then there is the fun of speculating how this will happen. Will it be meteors, aliens, nuclear war, global warming, or maybe the dinosaurs coming out of hiding to kick or butts? Some people reach their conclusions about the end of the world with information from the news, the Mayans, Nostradamus, or the Bible, but regardless of where you get your information, I think it's evident that the end is near and things have already started to unravel as was witnessed by the follower fiasco with Blogger over the last few days. Unfortunately I only have 2 years and 10 months left to work on recruiting more followers for my blog.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Brittany, Paris, and our Pathetically Shallow Society

When my wife goes to bed each night she insists on watching a video or TV for the 2 or 3 minutes it takes until she falls asleep. I love movies so we usually watch a DVD, but occasionally she will just turn on the TV. We get horrible reception so when we watch it late at night we have about 3 channels to choose from. The choices usually consist of an exercise infomercial, Univision, or some other channel in Spanish, or Entertainment Tonight. I am giving you this background as part of my futile attempt to justify why I have watched such tripe in the past.

ET has been around since the early 80's, but I don't remember it being so superficial and fickle when I was younger. All they talk about is Brad and Angelina, Tom Cat, Britney Spears, Paris Hilton, Lindsay Lohan, The Osmonds, Dancing with the Stars, etc. When Anna Nicole Smith died they were like vultures with their exclusive reporting which consisted of the same redundant interviews and footage shown over and over for months. I can only take so much gossip and life changing news like who designed Eva Longaria's dress and who Nicole Kidman is now dating. The sad thing about this is that I sometimes find myself yelling at the TV saying "what kind of losers with no life watch this?" I am then quiet for a minute as I realize the answer is stupid people like myself who think it is beneath them.

Another thing I dislike about Entertainment Tonight is Cojo. It's not so much the double take I do whenever I see him as I try to determine his gender, but it has more to do with his condescending attitude. I love movies and can appreciate the Academy Awards but I hate all the red carpet hype. Since the Oscars are upon us, I'm sure we will be hearing his fashion analysis of all the stars over the next few days. Is the fact that Cojo is giving fashion advice ironic to anyone besides myself? Why is he criticizing and ripping on people for what they wear? Just because he paid $1,400 for his ridiculous outfit doesn't mean he has better taste than the masses. Speaking of fashion criticism, if he is trying to look like Pee Wee Herman he should have chosen the red tie->

Entertainment Tonight isn't the only shallow entertainment show out there. There are others like Access Hollywood, TMZ, E News, and Extra. They all follow the same formula. I've only seen TMZ for a few minutes but it was the most brutal of all these shows. They are the definition of paparazzi and I find it ironic that they can actually make their living by ridiculing, stalking, and mocking the very celebrities that give them job security. The only thing worse than shallow celebrities with train wreck lives are those who benefit from exploiting them. This includes bloggers who use their names in the title of their posts to get more traffic. Disgusting!

I admit that my blog is often trivial , superficial, and focused on pop culture too so this post may be hypocritical in nature, but that's OK because I have a deadline to hurry and finish so I can go watch Entertainment Tonight and see who won the award for being the worst dressed celebrity on the red carpet.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The World of Sign Holders

Recently while driving around town I was reminded that it's tax season. I came to this realization after seeing people dressed up like the statue of liberty or Uncle Sam holding signs to entice you to let their company prepare your taxes. Let me first preface my comments by saying that I respect anyone who is willing to work especially those who are willing to do demeaning jobs to support themselves and their families but I wonder how some of their employers can sleep at night when they make their employees dress up in embarrassing costumes and dance around while they hold their signs. My heart was overflowing with empathy recently when I saw a grown man (with a full beard) wearing a green dress and styrofoam hat and torch dressed up as Lady Liberty as he held his sign. I didn't have the heart to take his picture but I found a similar one on google.

Sometimes I see homeless guys holding signs for grand openings or going out of business sales at busy intersections. Again, I'm not judging. They could be panhandling so I appreciate that they are doing something to earn money. I think the people who get to wear the giant cell phone costume are lucky because they don't have to show their faces. I feel really bad for a regular sign holder I frequently drive by. She is an older lady and she doesn't just hold her Little Caesars Hot-N-Ready sign, she dances around like she's "sweatin to the oldies" the whole time. This lady burns some serious calories while she does this and it has made me wonder how she has the energy to do this at her age. She dances with so much enthusiasm that she must either really love dancing in front of people or she's forced to wear some kind of device that will shock her if she stops moving.

I have a friend who told me a great story related to this topic. He was driving through town one day and came across a car for sale parked on the side of the road. It had a phone number to call in the back window. He also noticed a sign on the sign of the car that said "Investor seeking apprentice-Make over $5,000 a month part time." He noticed it was the same phone number so he was a little reluctant to call but he wanted to know how much he was asking for the car, so he kept driving as he dialed the number. About a block down the street he notices a guy on the street corner shaking a Little Caesars Pizza sign dancing around. After several rings the sign holder stops dancing and reaches into his pocket and pulls out a phone. My friend thought it was a coincidence at first, but he pulled over and watched the guy from a distance while they had a conversation about the car. He said as soon as he hung up so did the sign shaker/investor. Two conclusions could be drawn from this story. 1) This guy was a poser and had no business credibility and was not quite as successful as his sign on his car claimed he was or 2) Little Caesars pays you $5,000 for part time work to hold their signs.

So if anyone reading this is an employer who uses these marketing strategies I understand you need to advertise your business, but try not to make it such a demeaning experience for your employees....unless they are teenagers. If that's the case feel free to humiliate them.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ugly Cartoon Characters

This will be short, but I have to complain about a trend that really bugs me. Am I the only one who has noticed that cartoons are getting uglier every year? Every animated program seems to have a goal of producing more hideous characters than it's predecessors. When The Simpsons first came out I was kind of surprised at how unappealing most of the characters were but I got used to the style. After years of watching The Simpsons I am so accustomed to their less than attractive features that I even think Mr. Burns looks handsome.

When I was growing up we had higher animation standards. Sure we had the dirty, lanky, inbred looking Shaggy and the frumpy, nerdy, clumsy Velma from Scooby Doo, but their physical shortcomings were offset by Fred's suave good looks and white sweater and scarf and Daphne's stunning beauty. Zoinks! See exhibit A. Why can't cartoons today counter balance the ugliness of their characters and give equal time to attractive characters? Because ugly is now the in look.

Since The Simpsons is funny I can forgive their less than stellar looks, but I have to put my foot down when other shows try this too. Some of the ugliest animated characters can be found on the following shows: The Family Guy, Rugrats, King of the Hill, Sponge Bob, and Beavis and Butthead. Take a look for yourself.
Many kids today may be unhealthy and have short attentions spans but at least they don't have to worry about body image issues if they keep watching cartoons featuring such butt ugly characters. I guess that's good news for me too since I no longer have to compare myself to Brad Pitt, Christian Bale, or George Clooney. I can now feel confident about my looks as long as I am comparing myself to Beavis and Butthead.

Monday, February 16, 2009

The Greatest NBA Dunkers

In honor of the NBA All Star Weekend that just took place, I'd like to write about dunks. (I can already hear all the women reader's mouses clicking as they exit this page). I remember when I first started watching the NBA as a kid. Dr. J was my favorite player. He would invent crazy moves and could out jump all of his opponents and hang in the air for obscene amounts of time. It seemed that a different law of physics applied to him. When I was a teenager I was obsessed with trying to dunk a basketball. I remember how good it felt the first time I was able to do it. Back in my prime I could do just about anything, but 25 years later and 25 pounds heavier I only have 25% of my vertical jump left so it's now just a memory. Despite the sad story, I still love watching a good dunk.

Most of the great dunkers today give credit to players like Elgin Baylor, Julius Erving, and Michael Jordan for setting the standard that they emulated and surpassed. Below I list my all time favorite dunkers in the NBA. I have ranked them in order of their dunking ability only not their overall play or off the court behavior.

1. Vince Carter-He is amazing. I can't believe his dunking confidence and the ridiculous stuff he has pulled off in games. I still think that when he jumped over the 7 ft. French player in the Olympics was the greatest dunk I've ever seen.

2. Dominique Wilkins-The first guy to consistently pull off playground trick dunks during close games. He popularized the windmill and power dunking.

3. Michael Jordan-The Greatest Player of all time also had some of the greatest dunks of all time. He was a versatile jumper off of one or two feet with amazing hang time. No wonder I wanted to be like Mike all my life.

4. Julius Erving-Other players may have pioneered dunking, but he turned it into an art form. He's known for being the first to dunk from the free throw line.

5. Charles Barkley-Despite a heavier build he could get up for some physical dunks. I especially liked the fact that most of his were in traffic with multiple defenders trying to guard him.

6. Clyde Drexler-"The Glide" was always graceful to watch. One of the more smooth players with amazing leg control and movement while he was in the air.

7. Shaquille O'Neal-Since he entered the league he has dunked on opponents at will. I love how he brings his knees and feet up so high when he does it.

8. Darryll Dawkins-Made an art form out of naming his repotoire of dunks and shattering backboards.

9. Kobe Bryant-He seems to be unstopable at times. One of the few guys who helped me make it through Jordan's retirement without slitting my wrists.

10. Dwight Howard-This guys is just a kid and dunks more than any player in the NBA. He resurrected the dunk contest last year and can really get up for such a tall player.

11. Nate Robinson-I had him listed in my honorable mention when this was in rough draft form, but after seeing him jump over Dwight Howard this weekend and winning the dunk contest again I will list him at # 11.

Honorable Mentions: , Jason Richardson, Larry Nance, Spud Webb, Harold Miner, Dee Brown, Steve Francis, Shawn Kemp, Isaiah Rider, Jerome Kersey, Terence Stansbury, Orlando Woolridge, Kenyon Martin, and Darrell Griffith.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Valentines Day

Valentines Day is a day cherished and looked forward to by florists, lingerie stores, restaurant owners, jewelers, and hot chicks. For most everyone else it is over rated and for some it is even depressing. I never did get the whole Valentines concept when I was in grade school but since there was candy involved I wasn't going to rock the boat. I just wish I would have gotten good candy instead of rock hard hearts that said "be mine".

Even though my wife is in the hot chick category, she still isn't a big fan of Valentines. Over time she has learned not to expect much and that is my fault. Due to years of Pavlonian conditioning she no longer salivates (looks forward to or expects anything) when the bell is rung (Feb. 14th rolls around and people talk about Valentines). This analogy is not working as I had hoped so I will just move on.

As you can tell from the prior sentence, I'm just a dumb guy. I can't tell you how many times I've gone to Costco after work on Valentines day to get my wife "something nice". If you ever want some good entertainment, just go to a store on Valentines eve and take a video camera and film all the frantic and clueless husbands and boyfriends who are desperately looking for flowers. By this time of day only the most wilted and pathetic looking flowers are left. The roses are long gone and they are now settling for azaleas or anything they can find that resembles a plant. When you return home from Costco with a bag of trail mix for your Valentines gift, you're not going to get anything but warm when you go to bed at night.

This year I actually planned ahead. My wife has not only been burning the candle at both ends but her candle also has multiple wicks coming out all over the middle too. She has been under a lot of stress so I thought I'd get her a vacuum. Just kidding-I haven't seen her relax for more than a few minutes at a time so I decided to get her a spa package. I'm giving her a combo hair cut , steam therapy, and a one hour massage. Hopefully she will be able to relax for a couple hours. Why do I dare list my wife's surprise gift on my blog the day before Valentines? Because she is so busy she hasn't even had time to read any of my posts lately. Hopefully this will be a better Valentines than past years.

Now I just to need to figure out how she's going to deal with my going out with the guys to watch the NBA Dunk Contest on Valentines night.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Manly Blogging

As I've visited other blogs and have viewed other author's profiles I have noticed that there are far more active female bloggers than men. I have sometimes come across the blogs of enthusiastic mothers or female fitness enthusiasts who have large networks of followers since they have such similar interests. Many of them have elaborately decorated blogs with buttons and awards from all sorts of groups they are members of. Sometimes I've enjoyed reading their posts but I've been reluctant to comment since 99 % of the followers are women and I feel out of place. Let me just say this. I am a man and I blog.

So in the spirit of testosterone I'd like to post an insensitive, sweaty, rugged, manly post. This post is dedicated to the following men:

  1. Guys who test drive trucks on dangerous courses with giant exploding obstacles that feature a brake test on the edge of the Grand Canyon.
  2. Guys who not only love to hunt but prefer to kill their prey with their bare hands.
  3. Guys who viciously dunk a basketball on their opponent and then stare them down after.
  4. Guys who are participants in strong man contests who can pull double decker buses uphill.
  5. Guys who work in construction or at oil refineries (the hard hat industries) and come home from work covered in dirt or oil.
  6. Guys who prefer to eat their meal straight out of the can. They don't need no stinking plates and utensils.
  7. And any others I may have missed like mechanics, bull riders, truckers, and anyone who loves heavy machinery and power tools.

If you fit any of the above criteria or if you are just a normal guy and have been reluctant to blog let me assure you that it is ok. There are many great blogs that are authored by men. You are actually reading one right now. If you think you are too tough for this type of activity you can always start one with a woman's pen name. Some women authors did this when writing was considered a man's professions. Mary Ann Evans submitted her work under the name of George Elliot. If your name is Brutus Strong you could submit your posts under the pen name Leslie Golightly. If you still have reservations and are concerned that blogging will hurt your macho image, just remember it is still not as wussy as scrap booking.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Now That's Embarrassing

I'm sure you've all had the experience of putting your foot in your mouth during the course of your life. Maybe you've asked a woman when her baby is due only to find out she is not expecting. Sometimes when my wife was obviously pregnant and people asked her when her due date was she would mess with them and say she wasn't just so she could watch them squirm. Then there is the extremely uncomfortable gender confusion dialogue. It's not as common, but sometimes "Excuse me sir " can lead to "Oh I'm sorry ma'am."

When I was in High School I went on a vacation with my friend's family. Each of his siblings had invited a friend to come with them. One night at dinner the topic turned to school and I started bashing a teacher I had years earlier. As I was talking I noticed that it got really quiet. I looked around and realized that everyone had pained looks on their faces. I then realized that one of the other guests had the same last name as the teacher. It wasn't a coincidence either, he was the teacher's son. Try digging your way out of that. Needless to say, the rest of the vacation was very awkward and for several days I found myself humming the melody to the song If I could turn back time by Cher.

I have an outgoing friend who was trying to strike up a conversation with a lady while in a line at a grocery store. He innocently said " I see you have some diapers there. You must have a little one at home". She ignored him so he said it louder. Still no response so he said it again. As he was repeating himself even louder he realized she was holding a bag of Depends. She thought he was mocking her so she let him have it in front of everyone in the store.

My friend Kelly who is a follower on this blog shared the following story. "As a young single dental hygienist I was performing an oral cancer screening on a handsome young man and told him to 'please put your tongue on the top of my mouth' Now THAT was embarrassing!!! He didn't do it btw.."

I'm just grateful I'm not a politician since they talk all day long and are never out of range of multiple microphones. It's only a matter of time until the inevitable happens. The act of putting your foot in your mouth can be excruciatingly uncomfortable, but it is hilarious when it happens to someone else. Feel free to share any of your gaffes, Freudian slips, or embarrassing stories in the comments section.
Addendum 02/28/09-Since I wrote this I came across the blog bee and rose where she shared the ultimate story of putting your foot in your mouth.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

The Most Depressing Scenario

When I was about 9 or 10 years old I saw a special on PBS about nuclear bombs. I remember going to bed that night all depressed. My little league team had finished the season in first place earlier that day and I had just received a nice big trophy, but as I looked at it on my shelf before going to bed I didn't care anymore because I knew that both it and I might be vaporized by morning.

The cold war was still alive and kicking back then. I would always hear quotes in the media that there were enough weapons to destroy the world 64 times over. My fear and depression about atomic bombs gradually lessened over the years especially after the fall of the former Soviet Union. Years ago I started hearing rumors about suitcase type nuclear devices that Russia could not account for. They had supposedly gone missing and nobody knew who's hands they had fallen into. After hearing this and watching several seasons of 24 it got me thinking about this topic again.

I still think nuclear war would be quite the unpleasant event. I wonder what would be worse, having radiation exposure and having all my hair and teeth fall out and developing bleeding sores all over my body or having to shoot my radioactive neighbors when they turn into zombies and come to eat my flesh at night. There just doesn't seem to be a win win situation to this scenario. Even the lucky guys who survive the blast and live in a bomb shelter eating spam and tang will only be able to get their entertainment listening to the BBC news on shortwave radio.

I have decided to be an optimist about this issue and focus my attention on other things. But just in case anyone with bad intentions who just happens to have nuclear weapons may be reading my blog, I would refer you to the age old question... Can't we all just get along?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

To Those Who Cross the 7

There are over 6 billion people living on earth and each of them is unique. They vary in race, religion, political beliefs, and cultural differences, but I believe we can basically divide the human race into two separate groups. Those who cross their sevens and those who don't. I dedicate this post to those who do (judging from how long it took me to find a picture of a crossed seven on the Internet I'm pretty sure that group is in the minority).

I'm a 7 crosser and I think I started when I was living in Europe as a kid. I remember my teacher was a stern woman who wore a white lab coat who walked up and down the isles as we worked on math. The Austrian kids were doing pre-calculus in third grade but I was still trying to figure out long division. (Don't feel bad I wasted them all in P.E.) Anyway to fit in with the other kids I started crossing my 7's and I guess it just stuck.

This habit may have been reinforced if I mistook a 7 for a 1 and had such a traumatic experience that I swore that would never happen again, but if that did happen I'm not sure because I probably suppressed the memory. Anyway I really struggle when I see a regular 7 because I want to cross it. It even pains me to write this post with a keyboard that will not type a 7 the way I like it. I also cross my Zs so they don't get mistaken for a number 2. I know most people wouldn't usually confuse the two but I work with Vin numbers everyday.

I feel a need to apologize for the lameness of this post, but you have to take into account the boring nature of the subject matter. Anyway if you don't cross your sevens then I challenge you to just try it once to see if you like it or not. At least I'm not trying to promote making a smiley face out of the dot on the letter i.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Before and After Pictures (Weight Loss)

The first time I saw some really impressive before and after pictures was back in 1999. I was filling a prescription for one of my kids and had to wait 15 minutes so I was hanging out by the magazines. I had never looked at a body building magazine before and felt sheepish about it but I picked up a copy of Muscle Media and it opened to a page full of before and after photos for the Body for Life contest. I couldn't believe these were the same people in both pictures especially when I learned that they had made their transformations in just 3 months. I have attached Pete Holter's picture, who was one of the 1999 winners.

The motivation of seeing so many people change prompted me to do try the challenge. I went ahead and participated in the challenge and by the time I finished I lost fat and gained muscle and went from 24 to 14% body fat. I didn't look anything like the winners in the magazine but I still made decent progress. As part of the contest I had to send in before and after pictures. I obviously didn't win and will probably never see the pictures again unless I run for public office someday. I would show my pictures here but I think posting physique shots on the Internet is too narcissistic. (And besides I once again look like my before pictures)

Some people actually put more effort into the before picture than the after picture. The goal with these photos is to show a huge difference so some people try hard to look bad in their before pictures and it is usually obvious. I didn't shave for a couple days and didn't comb my hair. I let my gut stick out and watched that French movie about the red balloon first so I would be all depressed.

Bill Phillips and I are very similar (especially if you keep our physiques, income, and prior successes out of the comparison). I'm going to sponsor my own transformation contest, but it is just to see who can produce the best before and after pictures. There are no rules, no time limits, no banned substances. Anything goes. Send in a picture from your high school days if it looks better. Use Photo shop if it would help or even send in someone else's picture for the after shot. I will be giving the top 5 Grand Prize winners their choice of number combinations.