Saturday, August 28, 2010

Dr. Spaceman

Last year I started watching 30 Rock episodes on Netflix. It's a very funny show and I would rank it up there with The Office as one of my favorite comedies. One of my favorite characters is Dr. Spaceman, pronounced "spechemin", who is played by Chris Parnell. I was never a fan of Parnell or Tracy Morgan when they were on SNL, but I love them in on this show. I just wish they would feature Dr. Spaceman more often.. Here are a few clips featuring this incompetent doctor.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

20 Years of Marriage

Yesterday I celebrated my 20th wedding anniversary. I don't consider myself an expert when it comes to marriage, especially when there are others who have been married 50 years or more, but since none of those people know how to use computers, you will have to read my insights instead.

Over the last 20 years I have made a lot of dumb mistakes and said some stupid things to my wife, but none of it has been intentional. I'm just a dumb guy. Guys are lucky because we can use this excuse because it is true. I have learned that guys are pretty much insensitive, clueless, pigs and we are lucky to be able to associate with women.

I'd like to share two simple items of advice for guys that will make your marriage run smoother.

1. Don't ever make fun of any Jane Austin novel or movie or any BBC production your wife may be watching. Chicks dig British accents and manners, and fancy costumes and powdered wigs. When you are watching one of these shows and see a guy your wife admires, just agree and say he's a pretty cool guy, even if he is the biggest prissy wimp you have ever seen in your life. She will think you are a cool sensitive guy for doing so.

2. If your wife is ever mad and you don't know why, it is much smarter to pretend you know the reason. It is also a safe bet that you are the reason, so you can might as well start by making vague apologies. Making her mad is a bad thing, but being clueless about it afterwards is even worse, so just apologize for anything that may ever upset her.

I look forward to sharing some more insights after the next 20 years, but for now I will just continue to be grateful for my awesome wife and all that she does for me.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

August 2010 Pictures of the Month

I just realized that I missed my picture of the month feature last month, so I am giving you a double portion today.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Mental Ilness

I have always felt pretty emotionally and mentally stable, but like most people, occasionally I have a bad day. Several months ago I had one of those days and experienced a little "episode". I felt like I was having an anxiety attack. I was very irritable and grouchy. I was tired and hungry and what was really frustrating was that I was bothered by something that I could not even identify.

That evening there was a very strange sunset as a storm moved in. I felt like a parakeet in a cage that gets an aura before an earthquake. There was a weird orange apocalyptic sunset that was weirding me out and I couldn't think straight. I was mean to my kids kind of like George Baily in It's A Wonderful Life, but I was over it the next day. It gave me a scare and made me appreciate how normal I usually feel and made me grateful that I don't have a mental illness (at least officially diagnosed) that causes me to feel that way regularly.

I don't have any immediate family members with mental illness, so I am not very familiar with the many different illnesses that people may suffer from. My grandfather had schizophrenia and was always paranoid that people were messing with his light switches or were plotting against him. It can be hard to have a normal relationship when someone is paranoid and doesn't trust you.

Years ago anyone that struggled in this area was simply labeled as crazy and either locked up or shunned. As a society, we still have a ways to go when it comes to treating and interacting with those who suffer from mental illness. I'm sure many of the homeless people we see are suffering in this way. I don't mean some of the scam artists you see holding cardboard signs, but the people pushing grocery carts full of garbage around town year round.

I know this is a sensitive subject and sometimes hard to approach. If someone has a broken leg, their problem is obvious and you expect them to go to the doctor, but if someone has a mental illness, there is often a stigma attached for using medication, or going to a psychologist or psychiatrist. Watch A Beautiful Mind or The Soloist sometime and they will make you grateful and more aware of this topic. It is also interesting to learn how many great people and achievers in history suffered from mental illness. Sorry, no clever post today, but I thought I'd just express some gratitude and create a little awareness.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Customer Service

Customer service is a concept that escapes many people. You can usually tell when you are working with the owner of a business because most of them want to make sure their customers are taken care of and will provide better service or stay late to help you out. Many times an employee could care less about your experience.

This reminds me of a story I heard when McDonalds was finally able to expand their chain to Russia. While interviewing applicants, they asked one woman what she would do if there was a long line of people waiting. She said she would just ignore them until they went away. I guess years of Communism had conditioned her to not give a crap when it came to her job.

I don't want to turn Chaka's World into a consumer reports or a gripe session, but I thought I'd contrast a couple different experiences I had last week.

We have a dishwasher that we bought an extended warranty for since we go through more dishes at our house than most restaurants. It recently broke, so we called the manufacturer and they said that they would send out a local repairman who works for them. I scheduled the appointment for Monday morning but he never showed up until Monday evening. He didn't have record of the purchase or warranty which I was previously told he did. When we finally got things taken care of we still had to pay more than the prior quote for the service call. It was not a horrible experience, but I wasn't impressed either. At least our dishwasher works again.

The next morning I noticed that my Moen shower faucet was stripped and wouldn't change between the different water settings. I Googled their 800 # and called them. I spoke with a real person quickly and she looked up my name and address and asked what the problem was. She said they stand behind their products and she would Fed Ex out a new shower head to replace the old one. That was it, not even any shipping fees. I was impressed, especially since they had already replaced the shower head years ago for free and it was not a workmanship issue, but rather due to our hard water.

I love it when someone provides great service. Many times I will ask to speak to their manager. Many employees hate hearing this request because it means someone is going to complain about something, but I like letting managers know when their employees are doing a great job and offer superior service.

This topic reminds me that we went to Panda Express a couple nights ago and the selections my wife ordered were pretty sparse and didn't look too fresh. The manager started dishing it up but then decided to throw it in the garbage and had his cook make up a fresh batch of her selections. He offered us free drinks since we had to wait a few minutes longer, but I appreciated the fact that he valued the quality of the food more than just getting us through the line fast.

What are your experiences with customer service? I'd especially be interested to hear any good experiences you've had. What are some of the businesses you have been impressed with over the years?

Monday, August 9, 2010

My Generation

Some days I feel like I'm getting old. I think this started years ago the first time someone addressed me as sir. Despite being so hip and cool, sometimes I think the younger generation doesn't relate to me very well. There have been many technological improvements in the last 40 years, which I'm okay with, but I am more concerned about the pop cultural references and jokes I make that are unappreciated by younger people.

So to help you understand where I am coming from, I'm sharing the following memories to help you see if we grew up around the same time.

You might be from my generation if you...

* know what people are talking about when they say phrases like "Dynomite!", "smiles everyone", or "don't make me angry, you wouldn't like me when I'm angry."

* remember when MTV used to actually play music videos.

* have never worn your pants down around your knees.

* were ever impressed with the Atari 2600 game graphics.

* know what it was like to watch a football game on TV without the enhanced digitized yard markers.

* have actually "dialed" a telephone number or you didn't grow up with caller ID. Answering the phone back then was like playing Russian roulette.

* remember Rerun sneaking a giant tape recorder into a Doobie Brothers Concert on What's Happening.

* remember when soda can pull tabs came completely off.

* remember when the only people who had cell phones were doctors and 4 star generals.

* remember your Saturday morning cartoons were laced with School House Rock.

* know the sound effect that a bionic limb makes when it is used.

* were regularly piled into the back of a station wagon with your brothers and sisters without seat belts.

* can't remember seeing any of your favorite NBA players with a visible tattoo.

* thought Disney movies had amazing special effects.

* remember worrying for your life the night sky lab fell to earth.

* you know what music group sang the title to this post.

Monday, August 2, 2010

The Blog Laugh Track

I am not a fan of laugh tracks. It is insulting that people should need an artificial stimulus to let them know when something is funny. I always felt bad for TV shows that used one because even if something was funny, it kind of ruined things. I understand that people have different tastes and some people may not have a sense of humor at all, so a laugh track can provide beneficial cues so they know when to laugh. In the spirit of the laugh track I though I would try an experiment.

Last year I wrote a post about the differences between men and women. I don't think it went over too well since there were no comments on it, so in an effort to feel better about myself and as a public service to let people know what is funny, I am going to post some excerpts from it again, but this time I have highlighted the funny parts in red in case you were wondering.

The Difference Between the Sexes
I was going to call this entry "The Difference Between Men and Women", but I thought I'd experiment to see if my web traffic would go up if I use the word sex in the title of this post instead. If you are new to this blog and just got directed here from a web search, sorry to let you down, but welcome anyway.

I am not smart enough to write a book about men and women and planets, but I do have some observations I'd like to share. I admit these are obvious generalizations, but for the most part they hold true. There are many differences between men and women, but I've found that the obvious physical ones are the least of them.

Shopping-I hate shopping. I don't mind buying groceries since food makes me happy, but if I have to go shopping, I want to get it done fast. The two worst places to go shopping with a woman are 1) for clothes, and 2) to a fabric store. Clothes shopping takes forever and my feet and legs literally give out after only a few minutes of following my wife around. She has learned not to take me along since I only rain on her parade. Fabric stores are even worse. These are stores full of bolts of fabric and patterns. These store are actually quite fascinating if by "fascinating" you mean totally boring.There are usually only a few places to sit down and you can see tired husbands fighting for seats like a game of musical chairs. Luckily they have magazines you can read in case you are waiting for a woman who happens to be checking out every single bolt of fabric in the store. Unfortunately all the magazines are about fabric!

Multi Tasking-It seems that women can do a variety of things at the same time. (One of these is usually talking on the phone). The fairer sex can carry on conversations, cook, clean, send e-mails, and discipline kids all at the same time. I need peace and quiet just to open a can of peaches. Guys are like DOS and women like Windows. Women are almost always better at multi-tasking than men except for one area...

Watching TV-I just said that men are bad mutli-taskers but this is the one exception. I can watch 3 or 4 TV shows at the same time and have excellent comprehension of each program. It's kind of like speed reading but instead of impressing people it just annoys them. A guy obviously invented the channel jump feature on a remote control. I can tell if something is worth watching in a fraction of a second. My wife is not as judgemental. She is more of an optimist and thinks the total gym infomercial might get better the second or third time watching it. She will watch a show for several minutes to decide if it has any merit. This can be frustrating since my superpowers that help me determine within a split second if I should change the channel.. Women want to know what is on TV, Men want to know what else is on TV.

Chaka's World was typed in front of a live audience.