Monday, November 15, 2010

A Day Off

I'm off from work today, the product of too many vacation days and not enough time to use them. Combine that with the wife being on her new job for too short of time to accrue any time off and I'm squarely in "use it or lose it"mode. I consider my ability to enjoy the Day Off one of my biggest selling points. Maybe someday, I'll make money off of some poor stressed- out saps who will pay to learn how to "make more" of their free time. The very case that they'd pay to hear such advice essentially destroys their chance to succeed, but as long as the check clears, that's not my problem.

My day has consisted of: walking the dog, hitting the gym, going out for a light bite, doing two loads of laundry and taking a nap. That's it. The last thing it feels like is a day wasted. To me, this is how it's supposed to be. The Day Off is the day where you get to think for yourself, instead of being told how to think. Anyone can be subjected to that. It's the Day Off that always confirms that right here, right now, I'm just fine with where I am.

I had lunch at Baja Fresh today (had a coupon). I got to see a nice cross-section of people. The young parents of two little kids (who were screaming, of course), to the three female co-workers, talking about Obama's recent failures in Europe (Kidding! It was about other female co-workers they hate. Gotcha!). I didn't envy anyone's situation. I didn't wish I did what they do. It didn't make me wish I had a son to eat tacos with. Besides me, the person enjoying themselves the most was an older lady dining alone with a burrito basket and a newspaper. No one was bending her ear over workplace rumors. There was no grandchild she had to enjoy spending time with. Just her and her paper. I was only envious of the fact that she had a newspaper while I was unfortunate enough to choose the latest City Life, but other than that, I'm guessing we had the most satisfying lunch experience of anyone there.

It's on the Day Off where I can really get a good glimpse into what the so-called average person goes through during their day, and you know what? The average person must hate their life. In my stops at the gym, lunch, and grocery store, no employees seemed particularly happy. It's funny that in a state with such high unemployment, it seemed to me that those with the jobs were the unhappiest of all.

This was supposed to veer off into something completely different, and I've forgotten what that was supposed to be. I've been away from this for awhile, so please pardon the rust. Perhaps the strangest thing about my enjoyment of a good Day Off is this: I'm looking forward to going back to work tomorrow...unless I can figure out how to run that seminar.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Let's Go Shopping!

Back To School is a wonderful, magical time, which is obvious because each word in the phrase is capitalized. My memory of BTS wasn't going shopping for new supplies for the school year. No, it was my (former elementary school teacher) mom crying at the kitchen table the night before she inherited a classroom full of pre-pubescents with a snootful of who-knows-what. Magical indeed.

We didn't have school supply drives when I was a kid. You got the stuff you needed and went to class. Pretty simple, really. Ah, but in this age where anything simple has to be made unnecessarily complicated, we now have endless so-called "Stuff The Bus" drives (again, every word is capitalized to stress the importance of this monumental event). Usually pushed by media outlets, the Stuff The Bus drives are done to gather supplies for students for the upcoming school year. I saw an anchor last week saying that most families are having trouble (in these tough economic times, naturally) coming up with the money to buy even the most basic of school supplies. I audibly scoffed when I heard that, but then got to thinking that perhaps he was right. From last Sunday's paper, I picked up a flyer for Walgreens that focused on BTS supplies and started adding things up. Certainly, if "most" families can't even afford the basics, the prices for these items must be much more expensive than I remembered back in 1975.

So let's shop. I'm only listing the most basic supplies for elementary school kids, so that rules out calculators and certain geometric tools which- in this atmosphere of zero tolerance- are probably considered deadly weapons punishable by a lifetime expulsion should poor Caleb or Kellan get pinched (so to speak) with one.

Pencils: 10 for $1
Pens 10 for .79
Folders .09 each. Let's buy five. .35 total
Glue .49
Crayons .39 (for a box of 12. Do you really need Burnt Sienna?)
Notebooks .50-$1.50, depending on number of pages. Let's buy two at .50 apiece
Ruler .29
Backpack $4.00 (that's the big one, but if you have a desk that can store your supplies, it might be unnecessary. Since you probably don't know if you do before the school year starts, pick one up

Did I miss any of the basics? I don't think so. Scissors? Yeah, right. Start your academic year in Mr. Weatherbee's office by bringing a dangerous weapon. Still, the girls might think you're a badass, so at $1, it'd be worth the risk.

Total for basic supplies? $8.31. ($9.31 with those bad-ass scissors)

Or, in other words, lunch. One lunch. Brown bag lunch for a week, and the kid is covered through most of his elementary school years. Yes, I realize that most parents have more than one kid. Tops, you're spending $30 on supplies. If you're buying Emily and Colin their own pen and pencil sets, just think of it as one McDouble you could've spoiled yourself with and split the items.

So, my exhaustive research reaffirms to me that Stuff The Bus is a crock. Put down the frappe and get your own damn stuff for once. Handouts now lead to dropouts later.

(Oh, I don't want teachers to feel left out. That same Walgreens flyer has a bottle of generic aspirin (500 ct) on sale for $7.99. That ought to last you until Thanksgiving)

Monday, August 2, 2010

By Request

I've been on the fringes of radio for a couple of years now. I'm not involved in the day to day affairs, meetings are rare, and when my day is done, my day is done. I like it this way, only because I've been on the inside and know what it looks like. Picture a rotten egg stuffed inside of an old shoe that's hanging inside of a dirty jock strap (one word?) that's been festering inside of a locker room after an overtime tilt in the South Florida heat. Then go sit and have a meeting inside of it for two hours. That's what I'm missing. Better said, that's what I'm not missing.

It's almost bizarrely admirable that radio continues to make decisions on a yearly-monthly-weekly-daily basis that prevent it from being successful. Not having time to go into them all (because according to what the average lifespan for an American non-smoking male is, I'll be dead in 34 years), I'll just mention the obvious. Commercial radio has killed the personality which made it profitable, unique and worth listening. For every good personality who's shown the door in a cost-cutting move, five come in that have a) no experience, b) are related to the owner, or- worst of all- c) sales people who "think it would be really cool" to be a jock. All too often management thinks that the dolts who have only mastered the task of dialing a radio station's request line typify the average listener. This has cost ratings points and revenue. Listeners are smarter than management gives them credit for, and they're proving it by leaving commercial radio in droves.

It's hard to think of one thing radio does better than it used to? Entertain? No. Personalities are dying off, both figuratively and literally (that's for you, Mr. Harvey). Services? C'mon. Traffic reports are something that can keep people listening as they head for work, so what does one cluster do? Cuts the number of reports in half. Yep. Take a valuable service THAT MAKES MONEY and cut it in half. Remember, these are radio management people making these decisions. These days, when I say "radio management" I mean, "salespeople". These are the ones that are running radio right into the ground.

Upon further review, I guess there's one thing that radio excels in. Interrupting their product. Playing spots. Commercials. Inventory (that's the industry term). Stations I work with have up to 20 units in morning drive. Some are :60, some :30, some :15. It doesn't matter to the listener. They don't say, "oh that one was quick". They hear one spot bleed into another, and hit another station that might be playing a song. Or (me), they play their iPod or CD, guaranteeing a song they like. What's worse than waiting through a seven minute break only to have the radio station come back with "Baby, I Love Your Way" by Peter Frampton? Imagine if someone's idea for a station was to say, "it'll be like an iPod, only with lengthy commercial breaks". He'd be laughed out of the room. Wait. No he wouldn't. He'd probably be promoted.

He was pitching radio management, after all.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Losers Rule

I didn't watch "Sports' Biggest Night", as ESPN so modestly called it ESPY Awards. No, I'd been burned before by that show. I saw that Olympic skier Lindsey Vonn won for "Female Athlete of the Year". Seeing as she wiped out in three of her five events, and that teammate Julia Mancuso actually had a better overall Winter Games, you could say I was surprised to see that. Nope, it was pretty much what I expected, continuing with the theme that failure is now more accepted than success. The "best", in the case of Vonn, failed miserably 60 percent of the time. Now come get your trophy.

Want another? Catch. Lance Armstrong is once again taking part in the Tour de France. No one can argue that Armstrong has had a fantastic career (though arguing about how he achieved such a career can make for some interesting give and take around the barstool). Not so much for this go-round. Three spills. Seems to me the easiest thing to do is not to run into another cyclist, but our boy Lance had it happened three times, effectively killing his chances to win. The articles I saw in the paper didn't describe an athlete past his prime, whose best days are long behind him. No, Armstrong was instead lauded for his "bravery" and "courage". It takes more courage to realize when you can't accomplish something anymore, and live with it, as opposed to millions of us seeing it for ourselves.

Winners used to get trophies. Now everyone does. Successes used to be toasted and held up as examples for others to follow. Now, inspirational stories are more likely to feature the homeless guy beating the heat, the single mom with two kids (at 25. Don't ask how she got where she was, just empathize) who works two jobs just to put food on the table (and pay the kids' cell phone bills), or the couple bravely facing foreclosure as the evil banks threaten to take away their house, car, boat, home theater system, spa memberships, etc. How brave they are in actually facing responsibility for once. Never mind that it's paid for by those of us that have kept our noses clean.

Starting to stray from topic. I'm good at that.

The word hero is tossed about so much these days its meaning has become watered down. Save a kid from a burning building? Hero. Feed a homeless guy a sandwich? Not a hero. Sully? Hero. Mrs. DeGronmont, 3rd grade teacher from Whippoorwill Elementary who taught Jamel cursive writing? Not a hero. That's what she's supposed to do.

If today's heroes are, in actuality, losers, we're doomed. Now go out there and be hopelessly average!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Creating And Debating

One thing I've noticed about these posts is that I rarely do it when I'm in a good mood. It's only when I'm down or nostalgic that I feel like sitting here and typing innocuous thoughts. If you follow this blog (God help you) you'll notice that there's been a dearth of material over the past couple of months, mostly due to the fact that my spirits have been high. Events over the past couple of days have sent me into a tailspin, so here I sit. Yet I don't know what to say. Funny, because creativity flourishes with misery, and flounders with happiness.

Well, that's something, isn't it? We strive for happiness, yet are most productive when we're not. If we're happy, we let things slide. This is particularly true in the artistic community, where the best work is born out of suffering. Show me a music artist that is happily married and I'll show you someone who's best days have long past. Show me a writer who's at peace, and I'll bet dollars to doughnuts his/her later work is filling up the bargain bins at Borders. The books are so bad they actually stock them in the area that's before you walk into the actual store, so you don't suffer the shame of having someone see you leafing through it.

Anyway, I guess the point I'm getting at, the question- is happiness overrated? Are we better off when we're miserable than when we're happy? We all have dreams we hope to reach, and we (usually) don't reach those dreams without working damn hard on the way up: lousy hours, low wages, demeaning superiors. Back then, it was all about having a couple of drinks on a Friday night and airing your frustrations to a friend or the bartender (if they paid attention to you, which was much more likely if the bartender was a dude). Then Monday morning it was back at it, with dreams of a better future keeping you from chucking your alarm clock across the room.

I have a nice house, an adorable gal, no kids to speak of, and an amazing little dog. Life's good, right? This is living the dream. So why do I fall into a rut so easily, and why is that rut so hard to crawl out of when it happens? I'm happy, right? Right?

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Remembering The '"Rath"

My air conditioning is out.

Considering the time of year it is, things could be worse. The forecast calls for dropping temps, so I probably won't be using it this week, anyway. I ran it yesterday just to test it and things didn't go well, so The Guy is coming tomorrow to take a look. If Sully can land a plane in the Hudson, I can go without a.c. for a week.

Still, it's a little muggy in the house, especially in the back bedroom where I take my afternoon nap. The conditions today took me back to Madison, Wisconsin circa 1988. It was the summer of my senior year, and I was taking a couple of classes. It was the final six credits that I needed for graduation. I even remember the classes: World War II and some class that dealt with nutrition. It had nothing to do with my major, but all my requirements for a degree had been fulfilled, so I took two classes that were both of ease and interest to me.

I didn't work in the summer of '88. My parents were cool that way. That said my job was college. Do well at college, then move on to the "real world" (They loved to say that. Believe me, it's true). With two three-credit classes I was never bogged down with too much work (home or otherwise). I was smart enough to realize that the Real World was fast-approaching: September of 1988. I better make the most of it.

The University of Wisconsin is a beautiful campus, surround by four lakes. On the shores of Lake Mendota sits the Memorial Union, one of UW's most historic buildings. The biggest room was the Rathskeller, gathering place place for professors, aspiring intellectuals, drunks, and me. Days like today remind me of afternoons spent at the Rathskeller. I didn't have air conditioning at my Madison loft, so on days that were too warm to swelter inside, I would walk down to the Rathskeller for a pint or two. This was a healthy walk, probably 2-3 miles from where I lived, but the walk always built up a nice thirst. There were plenty of tables on the outdoor terrace with outstanding views of the lake.

Midday afternoons were never that busy, so I'd order a 24 ounce cup of beer (Miller, I think), buy some pretzel rods (a nickel apiece back then), and take a table. From there, I would do nothing. I'd watch the water. I'd overhear nearby conversations. I'd take some crushed pretzels and feed the ducks that would come to shore (the Union folk frowned on that). Hours would drift by. Every time I thought about going home, I would remind myself that September of 1988 was coming fast and go get another beer. Every so often the Union would have live music outside, mostly jazz. Sometimes I'd come across a friend, which would lead to another round. Then another. More pretzels, please. It's as good as it sounds.

Surprisingly, I handled my beer better then than I do now, so waking up the next day never provided any real complications, and the memories of the night before were always crystal clear. I've been employed by the Real World for over 20 years now, complete with all the rewards and heartaches associated with such a promotion. I'm not a dumb guy, and I realized that my time spent on the Memorial Union terrace sipping tepid Miller High Life was time well spent, some of the best times ever. I'm nostalgic for that time, while fully embracing what I have today.

I hear the pretzels are .25 now.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Failure IS an Option

So I'm sitting here watching bits of Conan O' Brian's interview from "60 Minutes" last night. What a guy. He says he wouldn't have done what Jay Leno did. All Leno "did" was rescue the 11:30 time slot for NBC, make the network a whole buncha money, and please a lot of nervous stockholders. That's a pretty good trifecta. What did Conan do? Get bought out to the tune of 20 million dollars, use the publicity garnered from the very public fight with Leno to launch a summer stand-up comedy tour and get paid big bucks for a show later this year on TBS (which will do well in its first week, then fall back to more "Conan-like" numbers).

Simply put, Conan was the loser and made 20 million dollars because of it. He delivered an inferior product to the consumer, who went and bought something else. Price for losing? 20 million dollars. We should all be so lucky. That's the way it is these day. Lose and go home? No no no. Losing has never been more lucrative. Losing is in.

Sure, for the longest time, the worst teams have gotten the best picks and then landed (if they did their homework) the best players to help them improve. Now, losing is in vogue just about everywhere. Signed a mortgage you can't handle anymore? No problem. Banks are now forced to make you a better deal. Close to 50 percent of people don't pay taxes. 50 percent! This means 50 percent of people pay taxes for services that 100 percent of the people use. Nice deal if you can get it. Funny how the more you've screwed up, the more bad decisions you've made, the bigger, more luxurious boat seems to pull up to take you to a safe harbor. A ship that I paid for.

I'm doing things the way they're supposed to be done, right? When the bill comes, I pay it. When something breaks, I fix it. When I marry someone, I don't cheat. The number of people at work who help me do my job better is...0. If I can't do my job to the best of my ability without anyone having to help out, get someone else in there and turn me loose.

Come to think of it, maybe that's the way to go. Losing has rarely been closer to winning than it is today.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Count Me In

Off from work today. Got 8 hours of sleep. Closer to 9, actually. Took the dog for a brisk walk around the neighborhood. Had a nice breakfast. Enjoyed three cups of freshly brewed coffee. From everything that I read, I should be at the peak of my mental powers right now. So let's do this.

The great sportswriter Dan Jenkins once described golf as a good walk spoiled. With so many people protesting every last little thing these days, it's now more important than ever to carefully pick your battles. If you're throwing a tantrum every day, eventually everybody stops listening. I lose my temper so infrequently that when I do, the matter of my anger is treated with much more respect. Anyway, I understand a lot of the anger regarding the health-care bill, bailouts, cap and trade legislation, etc. Yet there's one protest that's to be catching fire that seems to me to be a good protest spoiled: The Census.

I received my census form in the mail a couple of weeks ago, and prior to its arrival it was a popular topic on many of the radio and television talk shows that I frequent. I heard bluster and outrage about what an invasion of privacy it was. How dare the government ask for things as invasive as "How many people live at your house", or "How old are you?" (especially prickly for female participants) How dare they??

Before I opened it, I expected to see all sorts of probing questions, so I was a little bit disappointed when I saw that all it wanted was to basically see who lives in the house. That's it. We lead a pretty simple existence, Pumpkin and me (or is it Pumpkin and I?). We both work, pay the mortgage and bills on time, go out to dinner every so often, hang out with an old dog and watch TV at night, go to bed at a decent hour. We have nothing to hide. In short, answering the questions took no longer than a couple of minutes. I put it in inside the postage-paid envelope (thanks USA!) and mailed it off the next morning.

I laugh (and yes, scoff) at the people who say they're not going to put down honest information. As someone who's dealt with identity theft, I'd rather the government have honest information than not. But if it makes you feel better to to list your address as the one that Mr. Douglas and Arnold the Pig used in "Green Acres", knock yourself out. It just seems like the waste of a good protest to me. A good protest is something that accomplishes something at the end of the day, whether it was the intended consequence or not. Shirking the census has all of the impact of screaming at the TV when the ball goes through your shortstop's legs. It feels good to get your frustration out, but in the end accomplishes nothing.

I wonder how many people who bitch and moan about filling out the census form give all that information (and more, much more) to their local slot club so they can stand in line and get a free fanny pack or two-slice toaster. Prioritize before you energize.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Things I Don't Understand (Part I of CCLV)

I don't consider myself a dumb guy, but the following question may change that thinking.

Why can't someone just buy their own health insurance?

Granted, for the past 15 years or so, my insurance has either been covered by my employer, or by my wife's employer. I haven't had to go out and actively seek a policy. Certainly one can do that, no? Nevada Rep. Shelley Berkley says that once people lose their jobs, they lose their insurance as well. That can't be right, can it? I mean, yes, they lose their insurance that their former employer used to provide them, but they can still get it, can't they?

How did we get to the point where the benefits are now the most important part of a person's job? Whether it's health insurance, a 401k plan, dental, vision, whatever- it seems the first thing that a person thinks about when they get fired (ok, maybe the second or third) is: what am I going to do about benefits? I admit that I gave that a thought before realizing I could jump on Pumpkin's plan until I landed a new gig. Still, I felt bad that her paycheck was much smaller because of that. I never considered looking on my own for a policy that best fit what I needed as a married father of none.

Maybe I'm old school, but I still consider the employer-employee relationship to be a good day's work for a good day's pay. How did we get to the point where the employer has to take care of everything for you but tucking you in at night? Isn't it enough that they pay you a wage that allows for food, shelter, and the occasional Friday night run to Applebee's? Wouldn't the checks be larger if the employer didn't have to worry about providing you with an ever-increasing health care package? Employers now are faced with the possibility of laying off more workers because of Obamacare. Why can't they just hire people to work for them, pay the people their wages, and that's that? Isn't that what Wal Mart does (again, forgive the ignorance if Wal Mart caved in to union pressures. I must've missed that)? In the meantime, the employee can study for whatever health-care, investment, dental plan, that best suits the needs of him and his family. What's so hard to understand about this?

I must be a moron because I don't hear anybody else speaking the argument. That, or I'm a genius. Either way, I'm confused

Thursday, March 4, 2010

This One's For You, Mikey

Another radio guy I know got sacked today. I asked him what happened and he said his boss said that "his talk breaks were too long". That's about it. This guy worked mornings, so if there's a place where your talk breaks can be lengthy, that's where. I'm Facebook friends with him, so I'll get updates on things that he did with the station and he always seemed to be out in his community. Nice guy, well liked, not a big ego. Big deal. His talk breaks were too long. Here's a box. Pack your stuff.

I've said this before, but show me a radio station that pushes a "more music" morning show, and I'll show you a loser. Now more than ever, it will be personalities that radio needs to save itself. It just needs the incomprehensible incompetence of radio management to get their boot off of the personalities' throats, and it doesn't look like that's going to happen anytime soon.

It's abundantly clear that the most successful radio shows have nothing to do with playing the hits, and everything to do with showcasing the biggest personalities: Limbaugh, Stern, Dees (ok, maybe that one's a stretch). Yet, time and again, we jocks are told to cut the chit chat and spin the tunes. I've even had a market manager tally up the number of songs played over one week's time and told me that that number indicated that I was talking too much (forgetting the fact that they had added two extra :60 commercials each hour and the average length of a country song had increased by over a minute). And this was a boss that I actually had respect for!

People can get music almost anywhere these days. What's sorely lacking is entertainment. Satellite radio was supposed to be the next big thing when it arrived because it was all music, commercial free. Subscriber numbers have been disappointing. In fact, a large number of people simply signed up for the service because that was the only place they were going to be able to hear Howard Stern. A personality. An entertainer. Music is omnipresent. There's only one Stern. Again, a lesson. Staff a radio station with personalities people want to listen to, and every sales person will be driving a Bentley. Christ, what's so hard to understand about this?

Lately we're seeing some music artists starting up their own record labels because they grew tired of how things were handled in a typical record label operation. Maybe that can happen with radio, where a bunch of jocks fed up with the "just play more music" mentality can put a group together and show the suits how it's supposed to be done. I don't see any other way for radio to pull out of its death spiral. Every radio salesperson elevated to a position where they can make decisions over programming is akin to a morbidly obese guy eating another triple cheeseburger. A quick death is inevitable

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Parental Guidance

Off from work today, celebrating my dad's 80th birthday. Yeah, he's slowed down a little bit through the years, but if I'm still going at 80 like my dad is, I'll take it. My parents are here for six days and not one of those days has this on the itinerary: "Hang out. Do nothing". It's go time, all the time.

I think of this whenever I hear or read the latest warnings about food, drink, medicine, air quality, water quality, etc. Instead of using the "Study of the Week" as a guide to how to live my life, maybe I should look to what my parents have done. Sure, they've had their share of health scares, but no one runs clean and lean start to finish. So, if I'm to take my parents' example to live a longer, happier life I'd:

1) Work at a job I enjoy. Check

2) Retire early. The memory of the joy my parents had when the governor of Wisconsin passed a bill making retirement possible at 55 years of age stands strong to this day. They've been retired for 20+ years and don't seem to miss what they did (both teachers). In fact, from the war stories they get from colleagues still in the trenches, they believe it was the best move they ever made. Besides having a third child, of course. My dad mentioned to me last night that based on pensions and investments, they make more now not working than when they were employed. We should all be so lucky.

3) Travel. They don't take long trips, but there isn't a month that goes by where they're not on the road or in the air. My last vacation that was just me and Pumpkin was in May of 2008. Trips home are nice, but I'm not sure if "vacation" can be used as a label, certainly not when I can hear my dad snoring from down the hall

3a) Stay cheap. Comfort Inns and Holiday Inn Express are just fine, thanks

3c) Stay near a casino. After all, what fun is life without a little gambling? And what's more fun that holding a pair and drawing to a four-of-a-kind? Not one thing.

4) Drink. I don't think a day has passed(other than during illnesses or surgeries, and even then...) that I can remember my parents not having a cocktail or two. Mom: martinis (gin & vermouth, not the pussy kinds that populate the landscape these days) Dad: Beer, and the occasional Rusty Nail (scotch and drambuie) when he's feeling frisky. Every damn day. I remember one time when we went back for a few days, we went out for a fish fry and Pumpkin and I went to the hostess stand to get seated, not realizing my parents had grabbed a couple of chairs at the bar. I asked why they didn't want to go right to the table and my mom, shocked look on her face, said it was "unheard of" not to sit at the bar for a bubble or two before dinner. Not being ones to breach etiquette, Pumpkin and I took seats at the bar and quaffed.

Those are my parents' four basic principles to happiness. Yes, they had kids but I think their happiest years have been after we all got the hell out of the house. So, if the lesson to be learned from that is don't have kids, I can check that box as well.

Monday, February 15, 2010

Debtors And Predators

My credit card bill this month was 10 pages.


I don't mind telling the balance: $189. I wrote a check for the amount ($200, actually. Easier to subtract) and sent it away. No worries. Very simple, actually.

The supposed difficulty most seem to have with paying their credit card balance in full seems to be the reason for the inordinately high number or trees that had to die for my bill to be sent out. When I picked it up out of the mailbox, I was struck but the envelope's thickness and didn't really know what to expect. I wish I would've saved it to go over page by page here but really, 1) I have so many better things to do, and 2) next month's may have even more pages. I guess that's if people fail to grasp the basic concepts of interest advanced in the 10-page bill. So much for the concept of the "predatory" credit card companies. predators don't explain their intentions in such exhausting detail.

On page one of the bill there was this example: my amount ($189), the minimum payment ($15) and how long it would take me with my card's interest rate (Really, I don't know. 17%, maybe) to pay off my amount ($189) by only paying the minimum payment ($15) each month. Grand total: 14 months. It was literally spelled out for me.

When I showed this to Pumpkin, she wondered what a co-worker's bill would look like. Her co-worker has 20k in credit card debt. I asked if it was due to student loans, maybe a car. "Nope, just stuff". 20k worth of stuff. I asked Pumpkin if this co-worker was concerned about this amount and she just shrugged and said "doesn't seem to be". My stomach hurt when I heard the amount, and I don't even know this person. Just like how we can do a nice gesture for a total stranger, then the next minute snap unnecessarily at the one person closest to us, sometimes we care more about helping those of us we don't know than those of us that we do.

I can understand how some people might run up debt, but only if that matter is related to a medical condition. Then again, Pumpkin had surgery 14 months ago that required her to pay $8,000 out of pocket while insurance covered the rest. She makes less than me. She asked her parents for nothing (but would have accepted had they offered), and turned down similar requests for help from me. She arranged with the providers a reasonable payment schedule and everything is now paid off. No debt. Ok, so I guess I don't understand how people can might run up debt. Certainly not 20k on "stuff"

I've got more to say on the matter but I have a 14-page phone bill to look over, so it'll have to wait for another time

Friday, February 12, 2010

Tax Relief, Not Haiti Relief

Death. Squalor. Crime. Desperation. Yep. That's Haiti. And then the earthquake hit.

I'll admit that I've given money for Haiti relief but I only did that so I could take a charitable deduction. I don't have any belief that my money actually helps. Haiti was the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere before all the mud huts collapsed, but to hear coverage of the story, it's being made to seem like it's Palm Beach under siege. Haiti isn't/wasn't Palm Beach. Hell, it's not even West Palm Beach. It's poverty on a level we can't comprehend, especially if your biggest problem is that your little Emily can't take oboe lessons at school any more because of budget cuts.

I would rather give to help animals than to help people. I just think that the more you hand over to people the more they're going to screw it up, and the more likely that corruption will result. I feel much better dropping off several bags of Science Diet to the ASPCA than I ever will cutting a check to Doctors Without Borders or anything championed by Bill Clinton. Dogs and cats can't help themselves (ok, maybe cats can) and my money spent there makes me think I'm actually doing some good. After all, Haiti's pre-earthquake situation can only be blamed on the people we're giving money too. Ain't that somethin'?

NOTE: After seeing the new version of "We Are The World" (performed for Haiti "relief") I'm considering asking for my donation back

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Done With It, Not Over It

So I'm at a party for a friend last weekend. I like heading out to birthday parties these days as much as I like a good cystoscopy (look it up), but he's a good friend, so Pumpkin and I ventured out. I knew from seeing the guest list that a lot of former co-workers would be in attendance. For this reason alone, I dreaded the whole affair.

See, I knew all I'd hear from them is how much the old place made a mistake when they let me go, how they don't like the new show at all, etc, etc. I know that sounds arrogant but it turned out to be 100 percent true. Not only that, friends of the guest of honor also volunteered the same opinion. I used to like hearing stuff like that, but now that it's been over two years since my dismissal I'd rather hear "what are you doing these days?" than anything else. Them not knowing what happened to me is much preferred over rehashing what did happen to me. In spite of have three delicious, refreshing Michelob Ultras, I left the party depressed.

When I watch shows like "Intervention", I'm always struck by the number of times that the protagonist goes into rehab, comes out clean, then falls flat on his/her face soon after their release. The simple fact is that they go back to seeing and associating with all the triggers that got them into trouble in the first place. In order to truly come clean, they need to make a complete break from the old life that brought them to where they are now. Such, it seems, is now my case with radio.

While I like hearing that I'm missed, it doesn't make me feel any better. In fact, with time it only makes me feel worse. Perhaps the only way to fix this is a fresh start in a new place. Certainly, Pumpkin wouldn't be against it. I'd have some friends that I'd dearly miss, but eventual long-term happiness might best be served by movin' on down the road. The only that's holding me back from a more aggressive relocation pursuit is the Las Vegas real estate market. To move now would be like selling an investment you know will grow more over time. But is the greater profit worth even greater misery?

In the meantime, the only solution seems to be this: drink alone.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Please Stand By

Like a musical artist who has a ton of demo recordings stored somewhere, I've got so much stuff rattling around my head I just have to get it out. It's coming. Believe me, it's coming.

Then again, when those long-lost demos get released it becomes clearly apparent why they were never released in the first place, so maybe it's best to stay quiet.

Nah. New entry by week's end, I promise