Thursday, July 31, 2008

All Systems No

Yesterday was my first time up in the KDWN "Super Chopper" or whatever it's called. Back when I was hired as the SuperCommuter, the goal was eventually to have my do reports from the air. Nothing's ever simple, though, and my move to the helicopter has been plagued by technical difficulties- none provided by the helicopter, thank God. Yesterday's test was deemed "not broadcast quality", and until it's determined why that is and more testing is done, it looks like my theme song will continue to be "King of the Road". Having a helicopter for traffic is an expensive endeavor for a broadcast company, especially in this day and age where the number one priority seems to be finding ways to cut costs. These constant delays are providing increasing, understandable frustrations among the brass, and we all know which way it flows once the bluster comes down from the top. It hasn't come down on me yet, which tells you how low I am on this particular totem pole.

We did go up for a while, flying circles over a freeway section in Henderson. The chopper is a two-seater, and room is at a premium. My side is wide open, so you can bet that I'm triple checking my seat belt so I wouldn't tumble out. Overall, it was a fun experience, even though there are about 100 different things to learn. Unfortunately, the person giving me the instructions was the station's engineer, and anyone who's worked with a broadcast engineer knows that it's impossible to have a normal conversation with them. They're like politicians with tool belts. In a way, it's nice that I'm treated as a peer and talked to like I'd have a clue about what an FSP valve does, or what the function of a flipjack is. By the time we were up for the test flight, and away from all the instruction, falling out of the side was a viable option to avoid any more lessons.

So, for now, the helicopter sits, and I drive. I understand the growing frustrations, but I'm cool with driving for the foreseeable future. My near miss of earlier in the week is still with me, and that's brought an almost unreasonable calm over me. My SuperCommuter shifts have been relaxing, easy, stress-free. My attention has been completely on the road, not on trying to text Pumpkin, check my e-mail or instant message The Boss while driving. Two hands on the wheel, surveying front, back, right and left at all times.

Funny, but I'm also more calm at home lately. The Cubs are putting the finishing touches on a four game sweep of Milwaukee, which under normal circumstances would make my want to consume a pint of turpentine. Yet, I'm handling it with- here's that word again- calm. It doesn't seem to matter as much. There's nothing I can do to help them win or, in what might be a better way to say it- keep them from losing. It's out of my hands. I may as well just grab a book and set a spell, not sweat a spell. It's said that one of the hardest things to do is to keep your head when all around are losing theirs and, right now, mine is screwed on nice and tight.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Near Miss

Almost died yesterday. No, it wasn't from an aneurysm caused by a Brewers' loss. This happened on the road. Damn, it was close. Worst of all, it may have been my fault. I was making a left turn across a four-lane road and as I was turning left, I looked back to my right to watch some moron who was travelling in a bike lane. As I turned my head to the right, I heard a screeching sound. I looked to the left to see a Mustang slamming to a stop, slamming so hard the tires smoked. I never saw the car. Never. He must've been flying. If there had been an impact, it would've been squarely on the drivers' side door, right into me. If I would've left for my turn a fraction earlier, or if the Mustang driver had been going a wee bit faster, I'm certain there would've been a collision. At the very best, I would've been critically injured. My life didn't flash in front of me. I only saw tire smoke. Not very romantic. I gave a weak little "sorry" wave and headed to work like nothing had happened.

It's typical if you do a lot of driving to be a part of some near-misses every day. Most of the time, my near-misses involve someone wanting to move into my lane and they see me at the last moment. Even if there was to be contact, it would be minor, and it's doubtful I would be hurt. Yesterday was serious business and it left me shaken. I was shaken all afternoon during my SuperCommuter shift, and it felt like I almost got into a half-dozen accidents. I was quiet at home after work as well, so much so that Pumpkin asked numerous times if I was ok. I didn't want to say that I wasn't so I just said I was tired. I'm feeling a little better today, but I drove this morning's shift like there was a drivers' education instructor in the passenger seat.

I hate cliches about life. Life is a precious life to the fullest every day....any day that ends in your bed is a good day. I think that's all crap. Still, yesterday's near-miss left me appreciative of how delicate life is. Life ain't a gift, but it's sure as hell fragile. A gas line could blow up the house before the end of this blog. A plane could crash into me. The ceiling fan could detach and decapitate me. At least if you have a disease, you're usually able to make your peace with the people you love, mend fences, get everything all in line before your time. If I was taught anything from yesterday (besides being reminded that you need to look 'left, right, left' before turning), it's that I need to take care of things for the little family that I have. I called my mortgage company to begin the process of getting Pumpkin's name on the mortgage. I'll be retaining an attorney to set up a living will. I'll double check my investments to make sure Pumpkin's taken care of in case I'm taken away. As is usually the case, it takes a horrible event to get someone to act. Today, that someone is me.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Limits to Logic

Just waking up from a nice nap, some please pardon the errors.

The Nevada Supreme Court has made a decision enforcing term limits in the state, so that means that several incumbents- be they commissioners, council people, school board members- will no longer be allowed to hold those positions because their time will essentially be up. The people who embrace the concept of term limits do so because they say the fresh blood is always needed to keep the machine working honestly. What's lost in this theory is the simple fact that sometimes the people who can't run for office anymore due to term limits are precisely the type of people we need holding office. Freshman office holders are often treated like freshman in school, or like fraternity pledges. In other words, they're not respected and need to work years to develop that respect. By the time that happens, they are no longer allowed to run. Un-American.

Isn't it ironic that the only line of work where a limit is placed on a term is in a job that's based on the public's choice? I could go to work at McDonald's and stay there for the rest of my life if I wanted. Can you imagine having term limits at other jobs? You can only be a company CEO for five years. A cop for seven. A teacher for ten. An auto machanic for 12. Lunacy. It would never happen, right? A politician repeatedly elected by the people should be respected, if simply because it's much harder to win than it is to lose. Yet, the "throw the bums out" crowd wins again.

The candidates running for president this election show that the pool is thinning as far as quality politicians goes. The answer for why this is, is a simple one. Why would anyone of even average intelligence go to work as a public servant? The pay is lousy, the hours long, the constituents impossible to please...and in Nevada, at least, you'll get thrown off the wagon after you've succeeded. Nice, huh? It's no wonder most are saying "Private sector, here I come". That, or they'll stay on as a fry cook a little while longer. Much better benefits.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bloody Sunday

I don't like posting on Sunday. I'd like to think that I have better things to do than to just hammer out stray thoughts on a keyboard on the Lord's Day, but today, it's not the case. Pumpkin's out with her Mom, and the dog is just laying there staring at me, like I've forgotten to do something for him. So here I sit.

I can attest that my mood has changed just in the short time that the Brewers went from leading Houston 4-1 to somehow trailing 8-5. My previous post postulated (like that?) that my entire mood system is based on the fortunes of the sports teams that I root for and now I have to say that's the absolute truth. I want to lay down in traffic right now. The first time I checked the game, it was 4-1 Milwaukee, and I wanted to break into a show tune. This has all changed in one hour's time. To my credit, I have not audibly expressed my anger, as that does nothing but make a rottweiler nervous, and we all know how bad that can be. I'm also frustrated that my mood is based on something that I have absolutely no control over. The stock market can rise 1,000 points in one day, but if the Brewers cough up a 9th inning lead, all the good of the day is lost. To all non-sports fans, consider yourself lucky. Once you become a fan (short for fanatic. Someone knew what they where talking about about when they coined that term for us), you can't go back to the life you once knew.

My hope is that my teams eventually raise the championship banner, or get rings, or whatever the hell else they do. This has only happened once in my memory: Packers 35, Patriots 21. 1/27/97. Still the greatest day of my life. It's weird, but sometimes I miss the days when the teams I rooted for had no chance of competing. A loss was expected. A win was a welcome surprise. The price that comes with expectations is high; headaches, stomach cramps, loss of sleep, increased blood pressure, and worst of all- possible physical scarring.

Hang on. let me check the score of the game......


It's worse than it was when I started writing this thing. 11-5 now. I want to scream, but I look down at the dog and it keeps me quiet. He doesn't notice that I'm punching these keys a little bit harder now. Maverick is content. He doesn't know any better and, right now, I'm very jealous of that. Maybe I'll have a bowl of broken glass instead.

My head is killing me.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Wheel Of Topics

After over analyzing my recent string of "good mood days", the only conclusion I can come to is that my mood is directly affected by the fortunes of the sports teams that I root for. Currently, the Milwaukee Brewers are the hottest team in baseball, winners of 8 straight. They haven't lost a game in 13 days, and my elevated mood seems to coincide with that. I'll tell you that Pumpkin will affirm that I'm not nearly as chipper when a losing streak is going on. A Packers loss takes days to get through. Why do the outcomes of these games matter so much to me? Who cares! Everyone's talking playoffs, and there haven't been expectations for the Brewers in 20 years. Last playoff appearance: 1982. I've been there through the bad times, so I get to especially relish the good times.

Now that that's solved, let's briefly touch on politics. Barack Obama is on a European leg of a tour that recently had him going through the Middle East. I'm surprised I haven't seen rock concert-style t -shirts with dates and tour stops written on the back. I'm guessing they'd be big sellers. I think the media treated this with the weight it deserved, but there's a central point that seems to be missing. The focus is on his first trip overseas, and how he handles everything. Are we ready for a president who's making his first trip overseas just four months before the election? Before July 1st, Obama had been to the Middle East the same amount of times as me. Come to think of it, he's sponsored the same amount of bills as I have. Anyway, I didn't see much of anything over this tour that either impressed me or disappointed me. When most things are staged, this has to be the expected result. Play it safe. My dental hygienist likes Obama because he "talks really well". I'm guessing she has 23 sets of encyclopedias in her home (because, you know, she's easily sold? Ok), but because she had sharp instruments in my mouth as she said this, I had no choice but to gurgle and nod.

Oh, and don't be impressed that 200 thousand people showed in Germany for one of his speeches (which was bookened by two major concerts). Considering Germany's contributions to world peace, the fact that they overwhelmingly support Obama should be troubling to the average American.

Quickly to the economy. Good news! Regular unleaded is dropping below $4 a gallon, and it's being treated in some places like it's V-J Day. Proof positive that no matter what is thrown at us, people will adjust in time. One year ago, a gas station would've been burned down if the price was $4 a gallon. Now the station owners are treated like conquering heroes. $3.97 a gallon? Cool! I guess things aren't that bad after all, eh?

Not as long as the Brewers keep winning.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Will You Still Read Me, Will You Still Need Me, by Post 64

I took a couple of days away from posting because it started to feel like an obligation. Not an obligation to anyone who may be reading this, but an obligation to myself. If it was a weekday, I must post. But over the last couple of days, I've had nothing to say. I've been happy, and happiness generally leads to banality. I've always maintained that a happy artist (musician, poet, writer, actor) is a doomed artist. Creativity and inspiration is drawn out more by insecurity and unhappiness. Using a couple of country music start as examples, Clint Black's career hit the skids as soon as he met and married Lisa Hartman. Chart success and radio airplay dried up. The songs reflected Clint's attitude at the time, which went from insecurity to an overwhelming happiness and his sales suffered. He's never recovered.

One more example: Tim McGraw. For whatever reason, he continues to be increasingly popular in spite of the fact that each subsequent song that he releases is worse than the last. I can't correlate a direct connection between his fall artistically and his relationship to Faith Hill (whose stardom has always escaped me), but I can't think of anyone whose popularity has grown inversely to the quality of the product as much as McGraw. He's like an audio version of Redbook magazine. The fact that he was recently their cover boy was no accident.

So anyway, me not posting for posting's sake the last couple of days was more of a case of me not being inspired to write than anything else. My elevated mood made most of the ridiculous things that I heard and read about seem unimportant. I can't explain the good mood lately. It's usually coffee relayed, but with the new job, I'm only drinking 1-2 cups a day as opposed to my old amount of a pot and a half. So it's not due to caffeine. I wish I could just be happy being happy instead of trying to find the underlying reason for it.

Quickie: They're changed up certain things about the KDWN morning news show and it's got me itching. It's actually a little easier for me, as my updates have gone from every six minutes to every ten minutes ("on the 7's!"). It's no longer a dry, professional news/weather/traffic/sports broadcast. It's now more the audio equivalent of a potluck breakfast. Some people might like this part, some people might like that part, some people might like the other part- but no one will like the whole thing. I may be wrong, but I think the change was brought upon by the recommendation of the station consultant. I feel radio consultants are comparable to hit and run drivers. They cause sometimes irreparable damage, yet get away from having any responsibility for it. Whatever the reason, I guess when you're 18th in morning drive, you take whatever chances you can get.

If good radio is simple in concept, why is it almost impossible in practice?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Scratching My Head

My mood today can best be described as "confused". More than a few things are puzzling me today, but I won't waste your time going into all of them. Sometimes, I get the most satisfaction out of solving the confusion and moving on to the next item to be confused about. Having all the answers all of the time must be incredibly boring.

I'm confused why we should need leaders. After you get to a certain age, you should be the one to take the lead in your life, right? Otherwise, you've done everything wrong. The black community suffers from a lack of leaders, I read. So does the Hispanic community. Why do they need leaders? You never read about the white or Asian communities needing leaders. Why is that? This just implies that the black and Hispanic communities are weaker at their core. True?

I don't get how the word nigger can be both the worst word possible, while at the same time being a term of endearment....all depending on who utters it. Hell, I was was afraid to type it just then. How can the most slanderous word a race has be used by someone of that race and be considered a compliment in some cases? Try and come up with another word as an example. That could be your life's work, because you'll never be able to do it. This was debated on "The View" last week and it made me want to stab my eardrums out with a pencil.

Watching TV during the day may just be hazardous to my health. Every other ad has something to do with some new medication for something "you might not even know that you have". The portion of the ad that talks about the side effects is longer than the portion of the ad that talks about the benefits. That can't be good. Now I'm confused as to whether I'm basically healthy or not. I might have something I don't even know that I have. I guess you don't know anything until you find it out, right?

Dentist appointment tomorrow. I'm confused as to why dentistry is the only medical science that seems to be stuck in 1972. Scrape, scrape, scrape, scrape, scrape, scrape. 45 minutes of scraping. There has to be a pill or lozenge or something that cleans your teeth and destroys your tartar much better than the endless scraping will do, but they're holding onto it somewhere. But, hey, I get a new toothbrush when it's all done. Just like 1972.

I'm confused as to why, when someone disappears, a woman is usually described as a "mother", while a man is described as a "man". Is a person more important, or is the story more sad, because the person has children? I don't have children. Nor does Pumpkin. If something happens to us, is it less sad that we leave behind a five year old dog than a four year old son? In today's modern media climate, the answer is a resounding yes. We're less important than a parent.

Brevity is the source of wit, it's said, and I'm sorry that there seems to be little of that in this piece. Maybe there's some medication I can take for it. Let me get back to the TV and check.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Slow Time or Go Time?

"We're busier than ever."

This was a line I heard a so-called expert espouse the other day. The subject matter was people's knowledge of issues in front of the November elections, and this guy blamed our general lack of knowledge on the fact that Americans are too busy. Here's a classic case of someone confusing the word "busy" with "lazy". I know, they have opposite meanings so confusing the two should be impossible but, alas, it won't be the last time this happens. People don't care about the issues. If I had a sure fire way to bring gas prices to $1 a gallon, they'd be swearing in President Kelly in January. That's really all that people care about nowadays

No way are we busier than ever . If we're busy, it's simply because we choose to be busy. You chose to have children? Well, that's gonna crank up the busy-meter. Went to Hawaii for vacation instead of the Comfort Inn in Lake Havasu? Well, that's gonna take longer to pay off, so I guess you'll have to "work harder" to do so. There's simply no way in this age of countless modern conveniences that we can honestly say that we're busier than ever. You don't have to hand wash the laundry in the backyard, or check a how-to book out of the library on how to fix your kitchen faucet. We don't even have to go to the video store anymore, and we all know how taxing that can be ("They're out of 'Innerspace'! Now what?"). We're losing the ability to enjoy doing nothing, and let me tell you: as a guy who has some spare time on his hands every day, sitting on your bum and catching a bad TV show isn't a bad way to go.

The busiest I ever was was back in my college days in Madison. That was some serious pressure. Four or five classes every semester, with reading and written assignments every day. In some cases, presentations to the class needed to be made. Visits to the professor's office to get some extra help weren't out of the question. My parents loaned me the money for school, so my main obligation was to do right by them. This was back in the mid to late 80's. Nowadays, one year at a trade school costs more than four years at a Big Ten school did back then. Anyway, not only did I have a huge class load, but I had to find time to drink and party like only Madisonians can. We had a reputation as the biggest partiers around to live up to and I wasn't going to be a slacker.

So think about it: Obligations to myself, my parents, my school, my state. All day, every day for four and a half years. That's getting busy. A full time job? Child's play by comparison. Again, if your dream is/was to have a big family, that's great. Just don't whine about how the kids are running you ragged. That's what kids have done since the beginning of time. I read that Cain and Abel were pains in the posterior until the Big G had a sit-down with them.

Time is easy to manage, or at least it should be. This is because we can control what happens in time. I chose to use this time to write. I may use the time later to go to the gym. Or clean the house. I don't know. My time is my time, and I get to decide what I want to do with it. Time, we can control. Time shouldn't have its way with us, it should be the other way around. If we want more time, we should take better care of ourselves. I'm veering into a George Carlin-esque kind of routine there, so out of respect for the dead, I'll stop (I had a whole thing set to go on "borrowed" time, which if you think about it is impossible).

Anyway, it's Friday, I'm waiting for Pumpkin to call (serious drama at work today), and I have the dishwasher to unload. I've heard from several people who are reading these little meanderings, and I sure appreciate the kind words. I'm glad you have time to read it. Time well spent, I hope.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Feeling a little better today, but a little bored. I can't really remember the crux of this was supposed to be about. Driving around at 7:30, I had the whole thing written in my head. Five hours later, my mental eraser has wiped it clean. let's just hammer the keys and see what wonder pours out.

In an earlier post, I had railed about how these days, even positive news is covered in crap. You'll first get the good news, then it will be followed with a "but", and a reason why it shouldn't be taken as good news. Example: Casualties in Iraq are down. That's very good. Counterpoint? Casualties in Afghanistan are up. Forget the the bottom line, that the total number of casualties are WAY down. Instead, we'll spin it in a way to make the average listener still think things are going poorly. I heard another similar story of KDWN today.

Now, this isn't the fault of the anchors- they're probably just reading it as supplied to them by the Associated Press. It was a story that dealt with how earnings are down, but not as down as much as some companies thought they would be. Coca Cola, for example. Coke's profits were down 26 percent from the last quarter. Read than sentence again. It doesn't say that Coke lost money. Coke made money. Coke just didn't make as much money as they had in a past quarter. There's your negative. The company is making money, handsomely. But the story is spun that they're not making as much as they had. With the way the story is written, though, the listener will perceive that Coke is hemorrhaging money, and the sky is falling.

It was last week that a major player in John McCain's campaign called the USA a "nation of whiners". He's since been demoted. I don't disagree with the statement, but it could have been phrased a little better. We're spoiled, that's for sure. I have to drive through my old neighborhood to get to work, and that place will never be confused with La Jolla. Still, I see a disproportionate number of satellite dished hanging from their apartment patios. I think the USA has a skewed idea of what "poor" really is. If you've got a roof over your head, and clothes on your back and a few bucks in your wallet and your health's in good shape, you're the envy of a majority of the world's population. But people here don't see it that way. We're driven by consumerism, and we're driving with blinders on.

I got a call last night from a kid with the Obama campaign. I told him no thanks and hung up. I wish I wouldn't have done that. I would've liked to have heard what he has to say. I hope they have the common sense not to call during the dinner hour next time.

I just heard a so-called expert say that as a nation "we're busier than ever". Is this true? More on this next time.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A Pain in the ....

It's not my goal to post a new piece every weekday, but with the amount of downtime I have combined with the amount of stuff floating around in my head, posting is probably for the best.

It's amazing what a fine, fragile line there is between being happy and being depressed. You can be on top of the world one day, and find yourself in a mental sewer that seems impossible to escape the next. Just today alone, I've probably swung between a good and not-so-good mood a half dozen times. Being that I'm on the road several hours a day, it can be a lousy driver that sets me off. It can be a bad report that I deliver. It can be a frosty reception from a neighbor or co-worker. It doesn't take a lot. Then again, I can drive past someone stuck in a job that I'd never want, and then I feel better about my situation. Just like that. I don't know if anyone else is like that. I hope so, otherwise that means that I'm not as mentally stable as I'd like to think that I am.

My health is a growing concern. I've had a couple of problems that provide my with constant pain and discomfort. My right leg has been in pain for at least five years, every day. I've seen doctors about it and gone through therapy, all for naught. I have a second problem that I've had for close to three years and it's the same story. Doctor after doctor. Medication after medication. Failure after failure. These two problems cause me endless amounts of discomfort, and the fact that I've tried so hard to get rid of it to no avail depresses more more than anything else. I can't even remember what it was like to have a day without pain. I know that there has to be a doctor who will hear my symptoms and go, "oh, you have ....." and he'll be right and I'll be pain free. Still, after seven different doctors and no results, I don't have confidence that that miracle worker will be found here. The last doctor I went to even went so far as to say he thought the problems were all in my head. I can see why physicians are asking for the co-payment up front after a "diagnosis" like that. I don't know what to do.

The pains have been worse this week than I can remember. It's tougher to stay in a happy frame of mind, but I owe it to people to continue to try. So I will.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Views on The News

My job as SuperCommuter for KDWN requires that I always be tuned in to their morning news show. Most of the time, I enjoy listening to it. I can stay informed on the local and national goings-on while I work. It's the perfect combination. There were a couple of things about today's show that got on my nerves and brought up the question of what is and isn't news.

Example #1: KDWN's "top national story" was about some audio that had been retrieved from the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, prison camp back in 2003. The audio is of a 16 year old boy telling some Canadian troops that he had been tortured. No details about what this "torture" supposedly was, just audio from the boy that makes this claim. I guess we're just automatically supposed to believe the word of someone who was captured trying to kill American troops. For all I know, they took away his Game Boy. Point is, there's no story here. The story just lays there. No sizzle, and definitely not a top national story. I'm on record as saying that if it's a vital matter of national security, torture away. If something had happened to Shannon and someone told me they could save her, but would have to use some unorthodox tactics to do so, I'd say open the perps up like cans of tuna. Don't tell me that you wouldn't do the same for someone you love. It's the classic case of building a fire without any fuel.

Example #2: There was an extremely sad story about a missing man who killed his wife and the mother of his four children, and did so right in front of the kids. Awful. So what do we get? A description of the man? The car he's driving? Where he may be headed? No, no, and no. We get the gut wrenching 911 call from one of the children. Sure, it lands with an emotional wallop but is so unnecessary and invasive I had to wonder why KDWN chose to air it (twice). Truthfully, I wonder why any 911 calls get aired publicly. The fact that they may be a matter of public record notwithstanding, airing a 911 call for all of us to eavesdrop on is the ultimate invasion of privacy during a tremendous moment of grief. It's particularly galling when it's the voice of a child who's watching his mom die. What was I suppose to get out of the story angle? It's not sad enough, the facts of the case? I remember how angry I was when the TV networks did us all a "favor" and aired the final calls of loved ones who were about to die in the World Trade Center, and I felt dirty all over. Unless that kid was giving us a full description of his dad and where he was heading, airing that 911 call is exploitation at its worst.

Columnists that write just once a week have it made.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Satisfaction (?) For Sale

As I type, thunder rumbles above. You shouldn't work on the computer when there's a thunderstorm, so I guess I'm taking my life in my hands by posting now. I'm actually taking a risk! I'm not getting any perverse thrill out of it, either.

Pumpkin brought up something this weekend that I'm having a hard time shaking. I've never bought anything for fun. Never. I'm talking something like a big ticket item, not about grabbing a Twix bar at the checkout aisle. Pumpkin used to be the type that would buy something if she wanted to, and deal with how much it was setting her back later. These days, most of her concern is with her monthly car payment. The car was a fun purchase for her. Empowering, even. Still, it's equal to 60 "really fun" purchases a month.

About the only thing I have that could be considered a fun purchase is my 56-inch TV. It's gorgeous. It dominates the living room, and is probably bigger than the room allows. I was endorsing an electronics store at the time I bought it, and paid for it with a combination of gift cards and money paid by the endorser. It really didn't cost me anything. Thus, not fun.

My computer is a necessity and was only purchased after the one that I owned for six years had wheezed its last breath. I can't really count it as a fun purchase.

My car? Back in 1999, Nissan supplied me with a 2000 Maxima to drive around in for 45 days. I had the option to buy at the end of that time period. I didn't even have to talk about it on the station, just drive it. At the end of the period, I bought it instead of going back to my old Buick Century that has just passed the 160 thousand mile mark. I'm not the type that thinks that a car can be considered a "fun" purchase, not when there were 60 payments attached to it. The level of fun drops exponentially with each payment.

The house? Obviously a necessity. Pumpkin and I were on the road to matrimonial independence, and renting seemed to go against that grain.

Looking around the house, I don't see anything else (of mine) that I bought for fun. The interesting things that make our house unique were suggested by or purchased by pumpkin. Her decorating touch has saved this house from resembling my college dorm room, circa 1985. Why don't I buy things? Even back when I was making more money I shied away from purchases. I can tell you I have exactly $40 in my wallet, and I hope to make that last until Saturday. Is this a disorder? I guess I'm just terrified of having nothing....yet I never buy anything! Wouldn't it make more sense if I bought stuff to ensure that I would always have something?

Raining now down here. My afternoon drive might be more eventful than I like. Ok, it stopped. Nope, still going.

I want a laptop. I want a killer grill (preferably a charcoal/gas combo). I want a nice little gazebo for the back yard, so we can use our killer grill. I want a brand new shower head. I want marble countertops. I want digital cable in all the rooms. I want 2-3 more dogs. I want more nice clothes. See, I want stuff like anyone else. I just don't need it to be happy, I guess. Still, I'd like to see for myself if that's true. I really can't be easy to live with.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Killing Ourselves to Live

I recently subscribed to a magazine called Best Life, which is a spin off of Men's Health (which I also receive). It's full of tidbits and advice on how to look better, feel better, and just lead a, well, better life. At 42, I think I'm taking better care of myself than ever. I got through six months of unemployment without becoming a raging, degenerate gambler/sot. One of the things I did do regualrly was go to the gym. Part of the reason was that I wanted to get in better shape, with the other reason being that I had plenty of time to kill before the wife returned home. I'd put in about an hour a day. That doesn't sound like much, but when you get to a certain age, you have to realize the point of diminishing returns before it's too late. I'm not going to be posing at Venice Beach anytime soon, but I'm also not going to be the guy in the "before" ad, either.

Still, the more I try to take better care of myself, the more I realize that it may be a riskier proposition than a sedentary lifestyle. Witness this little gem from the aforementioned Best Life magazine: "Recent studies link multi-vitamin use to an increased risk of cancer. Harvard Men's Health Watch is suggesting that the average man stop taking a daily multi-vitamin until more research is available....the studies suggest that multi-vitamin use leads to a general increase in the risk of prostate cancer and link the intake of folic acid to men's colon cancer". Oh.

Last month, I read an article on the benefits of folic acid. Now, it's going to kill me, and painfully at that. I've taken a multi-vitamin faithfully for years. I've taken extra doses of Vitamin C. I rarely get sick. Now that I read this, I'm left to wonder if I would've been better off just leaving everything as is. This little multi-vitamin linked to cancer note is just the latest absurdity among so-called healthy foods. Remember the bagged spinach paniclast year? How about the recent link of e-coli to tomatoes (and hot peppers now, too)? It seems like the healthier we try to live, the more it's making us sick. I remember when I would drink two protein shakes a day because it was supposed to make me stronger and increase my workout production. The only thing that gained in size during that period was my gut.

I can't remember the last time a frozen pizza was recalled, so that's what we're having for dinner tonight. With cheesy breadsticks. And soda. Maybe two sodas. It'll be by far my least healthiest dinner this week, but I'm willing to bet it will also be the safest.

OFF TOPIC: Looking at all the people lined up nationwide to get the new iPhones, tell me again with a straight face how the economy is in the tank. Please?

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Resting and Restless

Slow morning out on the roads today. As KDWN's new "SuperCommuter", I'm dispatched to accidents, mostly those along the freeways. Once I'm on scene I'm able to give the fellas back at base camp a clearer picture of how bad the accident is and how it's affecting the flow of traffic. Slow days for me mean that the drivers are doing well, so it's kind of ghoulish that I actually hope for crashes. Truthfully, it makes the morning go by faster if I'm being sent somewhere than if I'm just driving loops around the valley. There wasn't much to speak about this morning. My main concern this morning was figuring out how I can bring both water and coffee into the van with me. There's only one cup holder. This could be a problem. I need the coffee on a day like this.

There's rejoicing in Las Vegas over the cool weekend ahead. Upper 90's are forecast, with a chance for rain. Still, though the temps get cooler theoretically, it's more uncomfortable with the increased humidity. Plus, the rain brings out the inner "idiot driver" in all of us, making my gig much more dangerous. Pumpkin and I had a talk about our future in this town over the weekend. We've agreed to stay here until the end of the year, and then start giving serious consideration to heading north to Wisconsin. We'd just kind of thrown it around casually like a backyard game of catch, in the past. Now, it's time to get serious. By 1/1/09, I'll have more of a fix on this new job of mine, which is currently part-time. Pumpkin likes her job, but is in no way married to it.

We both realize this is probably a reaction to the hot weather, something we've really grown to dislike. The next five months will mean the weather here eventually cools off and becomes pleasant, while the weather in Wisconsin turns bitterly cold and snowy. Will our attitude change in December, when it's 70 here and 15 there? Is it more than just the weather? It has to be, right? I don't think anyone who's lived here or there will deny that the quality of life for the average Nevadan pales in comparison to the average Wisconsinite. I'm learning through recent trips back there that there are/were so many things I didn't know existed. In Las Vegas, the only different things I seem to do is change where I gamble.

Pumpkin works with a couple of gals who have just been able to pick up and move, and I envy that. Funny how I, as a radio guy, don't seem to have that in me. Maybe I just need to try it and see if it's me.

And, as a Wisconsinite, yes I'm tired of the whole Brett Favre story. Point: Las Vegas.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Just Another July

Fires rage in California while excessive heat warnings blanket Southern Nevada. Just for good measure, we have a weekly story about kids being left in hot cars. Seven kids to be exact. What does all this mean? Simple.

It's summer.

Nothing more, nothing less. No need to get excited, no need to get outraged. Wasted emotions, both. I'll go out on a limb and say there hasn't been a summer without burning brush. As far as the temperatures go, it gets hot in the summer. TV stations are rolling out their advice pieces for beating the beat. (My favorite; Stay inside!). Though it hasn't happened yet, I'd bet dollars to donuts that the east coast will be blanketed in a killer heatwave before the end of August. Over/under on heat deaths: 5. This will be followed by people looking to assign blame, even though people have died from the heat every year the planet has been around. It's as unpleasant as it is certain. If these events didn't occur, then we'd all have reason to be concerned. Still, we'll hear nonsense about global warming, foolishness about how the economy is keeping people from turning on their air conditioning (hence leading to their death), and useless reminders about what damage the heat can do if we lock children/animals inside a hot car. With all that's going on, I don't need a calendar to tell me that it's July.

Just tell me why if the economy is so bad, why did I have to wait an hour at Outback Steakhouse last week?

One more question: Has there ever been a time when intelligence has counted for less than it does now? Talk amongst yourselves, please.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Rock Bottom

Well, that didn't take long, did it?

Another radio ratings trend is out, and KWNR is, in the words of the immortal Les Nessman, "sucking canal water". It's been seven months since the Clear Channel braintrust decided that the station would be better off letting me go from the morning show. In that seven month period, the morning show has gone from 5th in the ratings, all the way down to 18th. That's something else. Really. I mean, that's one serious drop. You can actually attempt to scare listeners off and not do as badly at the end of the day as KWNR has. In a way, you almost have to respect how quickly the station has fallen from relevance. You can't rely on music to make you a successful radio station these days. The personalities have to be there to make hearing the same songs every day bearable to the listener, and in giving the heave ho to well-liked personalities like myself, Brooks O' Brian, and the Stunt Runt, KWNR is drenched in the sewage of its just desserts.

And it's not like Coyote Country is picking up KWNR's listeners. They're up slightly, but it's not one of those things where you can say, "ah, they've gone from here to there". Nope. One person's opinion here, but the Decline and Fall of KWNR should be exhibit A for the argument that personalities heard on the radio are more important to a station's success than ever. Preferably local personalities. On KWNR, the most successful personality these days is Country Chuck on Sunday morning. To my knowledge, Chuck is left alone to do what he does best, and his show flourishes. Why management can't see fit to do that with its other veteran personalities is easy to understand- they have to do something to justify their lofty title and the hefty salary that Clear Channel pays them. Guys like Mark Stevens and Bob Bishop have been successful in the business for a combined 50 years or so. They know what works. Leave them alone. Why is this so difficult to understand?

Another one of CCLV's stations, The Party, has brought in a couple of national shows to their lineup- Ryan Seacrest and Kidd Kraddick. Seacrest is best known for hosting American Idol. He has a radio show in L.A. that deals mostly with the world of celebrity gossip. Kraddick has had morning show success for years elsewhere, most recently in Dallas. Bully for both of them. Syndicated personalities on a music station haven't translated to big rating in Las Vegas, but that's not going to stop Clear Channel from pushing them upon increasingly disinterested listeners. Those of us in the programming side of the business know what's going to fail, but far too often it's the sales department that is running things, and once the tail wags the dog, it's time to duck and cover.

Back to KWNR's morning show for a second. Their rating in May was a 2.3, which placed them 18th in the market. 18th. That makes them the lowest rated morning show among the full power FMs. The demise is complete. They now officially have nowhere to go but up. The fall was swift, brutal, and beautiful. It was also preventable. The fact that those not responsible for the whole debacle won't be held accountable at the end of the day is what's most sad to me.

Still, I slept like a baby last night.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Pinch Hitting

I just picked up this new Diet Pepsi Max at the store. "With ginseng and caffeine", screams the can. I'll fully admit, I have no idea what ginseng is supposed to do. I know that caffeine is supposed to give me a little energy boost, which I need today. After half a can of this stuff, if someone told me that ginseng was Japanese for "pee more frequently", I'd totally get it.

This morning I filled in for Mark Thomas in the big chair of the KDWN traffic department. That meant reports every six minutes on KDWN between 5-8:30, and four taped reports an hour for KKLZ. Safe to say, it's the first major broadcast work that I've done since December. My current job as Supercommuter for KDWN means reports of a shorter variety, and this morning gave a chance to show that I still have what it takes. I think it went pretty well. Letter grade: B. If I was a quarterback, my rating would've been in the low 90's.

It's a dizzying time, the morning shift. I'm constantly checking websites, monitoring TV cameras, eavesdropping on other reports to check what I have versus what he has, swapping out sponsors for both stations without confusing what station has which sponsor (the biggest challenge for me this morning) never have time to take a break. I was mostly ignored by co-workers during the shift, and I wasn't brought into the boss' office afterward, so I'll take their lack of reaction to mean that I was able to handle the load. Considering how busy the morning was (fatal accident causing a closure, major construction delays, a boatload of surface street accidents), to be able to handle most of what was thrown at me was quite satisfying. Still, I don't know if I'd want to do that gig day after day after day. Then again, I took one helluva nap today, so who knows?

I rarely hit the bathroom this morning, but I'm more than making up for it this afternoon. Acesulfame Potassium always does that to me.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Down Time

I have a lot of time on my hands between when I get home at 8:30 and when I head out for my afternoon shift at 4. Lots and lots of time. I'm still trying to get into the habit of a double shift. The goal is to be able to quickly hit the gym, grab some lunch and take a nap all before I go back for part two. So far, I've only been able to accomplish the "grab some lunch" part. I'll blame the heat. That's easier to do that just admitting I'm lazy.

I enjoy the morning shift much more than the afternoon, for a couple of reasons. One, I've become a morning person. Waking up at 4:30 means I get to sleep in 90 minutes later than I did when I worked at KWNR. The morning shift requires reports every six minutes, so there's not a lot of down time. And, I get to listen to the KDWN morning news program, so I can keep up with what's going on, one sound bite at a time.

I'd love to be blissfully ignorant, but after trying that approach for the first six months of the year, I can reasonably say that it's something that's hard for me to accomplish. I like to know what's going on. If you don't know what's going on, you really can't have an opinion. Oh, I guess you could, but it would be wildly uninformed and you'd end up sounding stupid, so it's best to stay quiet. That said, being surrounded by news comes at a price.

Most of the news is crappy. Good news pieces rarely make it on. If it bleeds it leads. If the economy is tanking, it's top ranking. That's the way it always is and always will be. Even when the news is good these days, it's positioned in such a way that it ends up a negative. Example: Iraq. Casualties are way down. If they were high, it would be all over the paper. Now that the deaths are low? Let's instead focus on how the death toll in Afghanistan is now higher. Let's switch the focus. This was the standard line this week, and every organization was sniffing it up.

Want another? The economy. It's no doubt that the high price of gas is affecting people, primarily the ones who drive big s.u.v.s and pickups. My sympathy for them is small, as the gas mileage numbers on the vehicle sticker are the biggest ones you'll see. The price is also affecting mass transit, so we're seeing an increase in food and airline travel. If the gas price was $3 a gallon, I doubt that we'd be hearing repeatedly that the economy is in the tank. Remarkable, really, as five years ago, thoughts of $3 a gallon gasoline would've led to riots in the streets.

Anyway, before I get too sideways, let me get to the point. Say a gas tank averages 15 gallons. If the gas price is $4 instead of $3, you're paying $15 dollars more each time you fill up. Fill up once a week, and you're out an extra $60. Now, if a loss of $60 a month is crippling to you, you've got to look in the mirror and quiz yourself as why you haven't been able to do a better job of saving. I'm just tired of hearing how bad everything is. People in other countries would (probably literally) kill to be a part of this bad economy. You have to cut back on your Starbucks? I'm sure your expanding waistband can handle the loss. You have to eat at home? Perish the thought. You've had to cut back on your cell phone plan? Sucks to be you. God forbid you have to resort to.....gulp....dial up!

I guess if you hear something repeated enough, it starts to sink in as truth. I'm guessing the next "good news" story will be dealing with the shrinking obesity rate. The "bad news"? People aren't buying as much food because of.......(Tympani!)


Wait for it....

THIS JUST IN: Watching Sherry Swensk on Channel 8, talking aboout how hot the holiday weekend is going to be. For whatever reason she throws this out: "people should be running their air conditioner, but they can't afford it"

Huh? They can't? Where's that story been? So far, the number of people who have died in Las Vegas due to the heat this year has been zero. Now, the bad economy isn't just keeping food off the table, it's flat out killing us.

I'm now watching ESPN.