The SamuraiMarine

Thoughts, Philosophy, Life and Love

Category: Rants and Raves

Marketing gone too far…

There is this show that I like on the Sci Fi channel called Eureka. It is about a little town that is peopled by only genius’.  This town is supposedly in a classified location and built to house the best minds in the country in a place where they can work with relative safety.  All this while the town’s main law figure in the town is the only one without a high IQ.

OK…  My sales pitch completed, I do have to say that I really like the program, in spite of the fact that the characters are stereotypical of most show of this type.  I will discuss my analysis of TV shows in a later post. But the point of this post is that this series has taken the whole marketing and sponsorship thing a little too far… ok… a LOT too far.

You see… one of their sponsors is “Degree for men.”  While most of the time you are only forced to deal with the horror of being accosted by the commercials during the COMMERCIALS, in the last season they have taken to incorporating the commercialism right into the series itself… by making it seem like “Degree for men” is something that the scientists at Eureka are working on for the government.

The show itself is still a good show, but the whole commercialism part is something that kinda wears on me.  I understand that you need to have a sponsor for everything these days and most importantly for a program like this.  But at this rate, I cannot help but wonder what is next.

Will Adrian Monk start making it a common practice to tell his assistant, whatever her name is, that he needs to go take his, “ACME brand Lithium”, because it give him that warm and happy feeling.

Can we expect to see Rodney McKay take a moment to talk about the benefits of his HP scientific calculator or his Panasonic Tough-book?

How about Dr. Cox taking a moment to talk about why he should have used Trojan brand ribbed condoms before fooling around and getting his ex-wife pregnant?

Where does it end?  Will we, one day, see the Presidential State of the Union address start, and the pres will walk out with a jacket like the race car drivers wear, with logo’s for his sponsors on it?

How about laws?  Is there a potential for something like this:  You get pulled over.  The cop walks over to you and says… “I would like to let you that your left tail light is out, and your ticket is brought to you today by the fine folks over at ACME tail lights and electrical repair.”

Oh well… I am going off on a tangent here… If you get a chance, watch Eureka… it is a good show, but just be ready for the commercialism.

For a taste of what I am talking about, click here.

A brotherhood/sisterhood of car owners

Tell me… When did it become the norm for people to think that just because you drive the same car as they do, that there is some bond created between the two of you?

Trust me, I DO undstand it if, say, you own a collectable or unique car.  My wife has a 1993 Honda del Sol and we are on-again off-again members of a del Sol car club.  But see, that is different.  You have a car that is worth being happy with and there are few enough of them out there that make it special.  Several times we will be driving in her car and happen upon another del Sol driver who would wave at us.  There have even been a couple times that people have stopped and talked to us about the car and we are more than happy to share our time with them.

I think the first time I noticed that there are groups out there that seem to see a bond where none exists, is when I bought my first car.  It was a 1997 GMC Jimmy SUV, which is actually nothing more than a Chevy Blazer.  Anyone that has been around the block a time or two knows that you almost cannot walk a hundred feet without tripping over one of these things from some model year.  They are not that rare.  Yet, there is a car club for their owners.  I could not tell you how many people there are in it, but I am sure that there are quiet a few.  But the question is… WHY?  I can say, from personal experience with my own and from the points of view of others through conversations, that the Jimmy was a crappy vehicle.  Why form a club?  So that you know you can have a group of people to cry with you when you have to replace your radiator after the Dexcool seizes your cooling system?

Another one that makes me laugh is something I saw here in my town.  A Ford F150 owners club.  Alright, I would associate that as being about as relevant as a club called “Bathtub users of America”.  There are so many of those things on the road that again, I have to ask, what is the point?  They have a good record, yes.  They have a history, yes… but they are about as unique as humans having two feet. (no offense to any double amputees or paraplegics that might read this.)

The reason I am talking about this is because of my new car…  well… not actually a car, it is called a “Crossover” these days.  Not quite a car, not quite a truck, not quite a minivan…  you get the point.  It is a Chrysler Pacifica, as I have spoken about previously on this site.  Since getting this vehicle, I have started noticing more of them on the road.  I am pretty sure that they were always there, but the way the mind works, i was just not seeing them.

Now I have noticed that occasionally people see me driving in mine, and wave at me.  I do not know who they are, but they seem pretty happy about waving to me.  So I can only assume that they feel some bond to me for having bought a Pacifica, or maybe it is some mass delusional state that accompanies ownership of these crossovers that I have yet to succumb to, that causes involuntary wagging of the arm… who knows.

I like my Pacifica… I really do, but I do not consider them to be unique enough to warrant the “buddy effect” that seems to be surrounding me since I bought it.

Oh well… I am a gracious person… I will smile when people wave… like I always do.  But in my mind, I am hoping that you get back home before the Lithium wears off.

Big Foot

One of my favorite hobbies, when at a PC, these days, is playing with Google Earth. It is truly a fascinating program and so full of information and detail, that I am not sure you can really run out of things to look at or for. Interestingly enough, it was one of my discoveries on G-Earth that lead me to write this post.

Bigfoot.

In my G-Travels, I have noticed that there are many many places through out California that Bigfoot was supposedly seen.

If we are to believe that there have been so many people that have run into this mystical beast, then you would think that someone, somewhere, would have captured a picture that is clear and easy to tell that what we are looking at. Instead, the only photos that do come out are either taken as such a distance that you cannot tell what you are looking at, or they are so fuzzy that you cannot tell if you are looking at a map/ape type creature or a bowl of ground beef that has been in the fridge for a couple months.

When I posed this argument to a friend once, he said that the reason the photos are of bad quality is probably because the person was scared. I can accept that in some of the cases, but not all. I would have to think that if a photographer sees Bigfoot, then there is also something else he sees… in his mind. That would be dollar signs. I would think that the first photographers that bring in clear, unaltered pictures of something along the lines of Bigfoot, will be making a trip to the bank to deposit a nice sized check.

I am not discounting the possible existence of Bigfoot. I have lived long enough to understand that there are still things about planet Earth that we do not know. We are always finding new species of animals and plants. There will always be new discoveries to be made and I am sure that there is still a lot out there to be discovered and, as humans have a tendency to do, to be exploited.

I do have to think about how funny it is that something like this has made it’s way into out pop culture. I can recall all the silly shows that were on when I was a kid that dealt with Bigfoot. Though my favorite had to be the episode of the Six Million Dollar man, where he fights Bigfoot. I have done you the courtesy of adding a clip.

OK… Looking back on it now, I will be the first to admit that our TV choices in the 70s were not the best. But hey, I liked it at the time, and I would never miss an episode of the Six Million Dollar Man.

But this show helps to show the place that we put things like Big Foot then, and in listening to shows like Coast to Coast, which used to be Coast to Coast with Art Bell, you see that there still are people out there that follow things like this. I would hazard to guess, though, that maybe 90% of the people that call into programs like that are simply looking for some attention or their 15.

As I said earlier, I do think there is a lot out there that we have not seen yet, and maybe we should not. Face it, there is no doubt that when we find something new, we always seem to find new and exciting ways to exploit, destroy or molest it to death. I am sure the same would be true if a Big Foot type creature.

In reality, it is probably a roving band of people suffering from Hypertricosis and coincidentally have unusually large feet. They are simply looking for a razor, delousing facility and a really large foot bath.

Have we nothing better to worry about?

This question comes as I stumbled upon the following video:

Have we really gotten to a point where someone like this is not allowed to get up, and speak his mind, whether it be in ernst or jest, without being taken to task by the media as being a racist or hate monger?

His message was stated with a sense of jest and humor. There was nothing negative about it. It was a speech that, if given twenty or thirty years ago, would have had no negative feedback for anyone involved. But we have become so worried about what others think, and not wanting to offend anyone about anything, that we feel obligated to place him on some shelf as a bad guy.

What makes this worse is how the media, in their usual idiotic way, only shows enough of the clips from the actual speech, to make it appear that he was being hurtful to others. As I have said before, the media is nothing more than a vulture culture that lives to feast off only the refuse of what should be real news. What they did to Brandon is a prime example of that. While it is of poor quality, I have included a video of that as well.

There is nothing wrong with making fun of the things that divide us. There is nothing wrong with demonstrating that you have a sense of humor. Personally I think that is something that all too many of us are missing these days, and the world would be so much better if we did not hide our jest from one
another, and Brandon Rosario was demonstrating just that.

Looking at this from another point of view, we are sending a message that expressing yourself openly and honestly is not something that we want our youth to do. We are teaching them that you have to censor everything you say and do to not offend anyone. Doing this is almost impossible without making your speeches so open ended and bland, that they lose any real substance.

Back to Brandon, though. I hope that he stays who he is and does not change because a few people might have been offended but some of what he said. We really have to learn to laugh at ourselves and others. I honestly believe that the only thing that is going to save our world is if we all learn to have a sense of humor again and start using it.

There is nothing more cleansing to the soul than a really good, gut wrenching, laugh. Preferably one that brings you to tears.

Brandon Rosario… keep up the good work.

Credits for the attached videos go to “Moohu” on you tube, for the news clip, and the coverage of the actual speech by Brandon Rosario.

“Where are all da white women at???”

WARNING… PART OF THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE IS VERBAL MEANDERING WITH INTERMITTANT POINTS OF CLARITY. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED. PROCEED WITH CAUTION AND A SENSE OF HUMOR. IF YOU ARE MISSING A SENSE OF HUMOR, PLEASE LEAVE THE SITE IMMEDIATELY.

How many people out there know what movie the title of this article came from? There are many of you who probably think I am just being hateful, or mean, or making a racist comment. Trust me… I am not.

The quote came from what I would have to say is one of the greatest comedy movies, from the greatest comedy mind of our time. Mel Brooks and the movie was, dare I say? (Dare Dare) Blazing Saddles.

I started this article out with that for two reasons… first, because I know that there are probably people out that might not have ever heard that line, and will be drawn in by the sensationalism of it (Hi there, and welcome!), and also because I have just always wanted to use that quote for something.

I miss the days when movies could really take chances and not have to worry about some particular group being offended by something, or having some organization crawl out of the legal swamps and morass to defend some group that has yet to realize that they think they are being victimized.

A good RECENT example is the whole controversy over the character “Jar Jar Binks” in the last episodes of the Star Wars franchise. Yes, I will agree, Jar Jar needs to be killed in the most gruesome way possible for being one of the most irritating characters ever created in the the history of Science Fiction, following a close second would be the entire cast and concept of the movie “The Black Hole”, which ranks right there with “Attack of the killer tomatoes.” But I digress…

Jar Jar was a irritation, not too far removed from severe jock itch if you are Edward Sisor , but the idea that he was offensive to the Jamaican community? That is a bit a of stretch. Yes, he had an accent that would be considered slightly “island” and with a stretch of the imagination, you could say his ears looked slightly “Dreadlockish”. But SciFi is SciFi… we have no idea what is out there and what they look like, or how they sound. If you watch most of the newer SciFi movies and TV shows, then all of Australia and England should be offended, since it appears that most spacefaring races have a distiguished British accent.

But going back for a moment to the 70s, and the movies that were out at that time, you can see that there are some of them that would probably never make it back to the big screen, if they were released, brand new, today.

Take the whole opening sequence to “Blazing Saddles”, for those of you who remember it. The continuously running joke about Cleavon Little, and his become the first black sheriff of the town. How they actors kept teasing you with by saying things like, “The Sheriff, he’s a ni…” then a bell would ring, or something else would sound. And just when you were SURE that they would not say it… John Hillerman’s character drops the “N” word. Please see play the embedded video for the real scene.

I honestly do not think that studios could get away with releasing movies like that today without being called to task for them. Blazing Saddles was not being racist, it was making fun of the fact that there is racism out there and at the process of BEING racist.

If you go back even further, there are other examples that are not as light hearted as Blazing Saddles, and while their message is considered “Racially Insensitive” by today’s standards of not being allowed, in some cases, to acknowledge color or nationality except in a educational way, they were considered appropriate and innocent for their time.

As another example, look at the Disney movie The Song of the South. This was not a malicious movie, is was a fun movie whose message was in no way negative. It simple told a story about the deep south and was set in the past. There are probably very few younger people, born after the mid seventies, that remember this movie. In spite of the way people probably will look at it today, it was a good movie, and some of you may be familiar with the music of it.

If you have never seen The Song of the South, then I would ask that you rent it, if you can find it. I have actually been in two places that will not carry it because they consider it offensive material. Yet it you walk down the isles, you see just about every horror film you can imagine, and one of them had an adult movie section. Granted… these were smaller private rental places, but the point is made.

I think the point I am trying to make with this is that yes, racism is important, and it is something that makes no sense. There are already plenty of ways to keep ourselves divided, why make the color of our skin, or where we were born one of them. But we also need to laugh at ourselves sometimes. There are probably just as many Black idiots as there are White idiots, Red ones, Brown one, etc… Likewise, there are probably just as many of each who are as smart or smarter than you and I. The idea that you can look at a person’s skin color, and decide that they are smart or dumb, worthy or not of respect, etc, tells me that the person making that decision is missing something upstairs.

I think that portraying racism or bigotry in a humorous light makes it that much less of an issue, because if you can laugh at something like this, then you are that much closer to beating it. Simply dwelling on the negative does not fix the problems. Sometimes you need to look at something like this, and laugh. Make a movie about it and let other people laugh.

Can you imagine a world where racism was laughed at the same way we laugh at people when they same that they think the earth is flat, or Elvis is still alive, or that modern technology is based on what they found at Roswell?

Next time you hear a person use the “N” word, as referenced above… start laughing at them… just keep laughing and walk away. Who knows… maybe if they get the hint that the shock value of the word is gone, they will not use it as much. Then people like Mel Brooks can start putting out the movies we know and love!

Until next time!

Belching in public

Alright… I am open minded.  I can tolerate quite a bit, even if I find it repulsive.

That being said, when did it start becoming the norm for people to belch or fart in public and it be connsidered something to laugh at, encourage or otherwise support?

My wife and I where at California Pizza Kitchen a few days ago, when some people a few seats from us all laughed because there kid belched.  I could excuse this if the kid was, oh, say… five years old.  Even then I would expect the parents to explain that this was not proper behavior.  But the kid in question was obviously between thirteen and fifteen years old, and appeared to be mentally capable (i.e. not mentally challenged.)

This was not the first time I have seen this happen.  In fact there are a couple of my friends who have done similar… luckily they, at least, waited until they were outside the restaurant before doing this, but I still see this as being extremely rude.

To be fair, I am referring to the loud, intentional belches that one releases for the sake of releasing them.  I am not talking about the little ones that you cannot always control, and you release them making every effort to keep them quiet and suppressed.  Those are excusable, and should still be followed up by a polite, “Pardon me.” or “Excuse me.”  The fact is that your body still needs to function, and part of that is the production of gases that need to be expelled.  But you have a pretty good idea of how much force is coming up before you releaser it, so rarely should you be surprised by one.

So… do I belch?  Of course…  When I am sitting at home, and need arises… I do let a couple noisy ones go.  But then again, it is me, my wife, the dogs and the cats.  There have been a couple that I would proudly say are award winners.  But I still excuse myself when I do it!  If we have guest over, I will not do this.

Now that I have put all this out… I have had a few accidental ones slip out and I can tell you that they are rather embarrassing.  They usually come out in the middle of a conversation with someone, too.  Not something that pleases me, or the person I am talking to.  But I hope that my profuse apologies and reddened face can attest to the fact that it was entirely unintentional.

A story comes to mind about a guy I used to work with.  He was at a job interview where part of the interview was to display how he could save the company money.  About half way through the powerpoint presentation, in front of about six people, he leaned over to adjust the focus on the projector, when he let out a fart.  As he tells the story, it was not a quiet one… it was a “ripper”.  Add to that that it was a small room, and this one reeked.  He told me that he cleared the room in a heartbeat.  The good news was that he did get the job.  However he would never tell me the nickname they gave him… I can only imagine.

Maybe I am being too prudish about things like this.  But we really need to get back into the habit of telling our kids when something is just not cute or funny.  The kid I mentioned in the start of this piece… if he had done that at home, with just his family… I am sure it would have been hysterical to them all.  But in a restaurant or in a public place?  I think not.

The truth about Area 51 and other government secrets

Occasionally I will let myself be sucked into watching one of the many programs that comes on about Alien Abductions, UFOs and Area 51. Last night was no exception. I watched yet another program on Area 51 and the secret tests and planes. Let’s not forget the UFOs that we are supposedly backward engineering, leading to much of the technology that we have today.

First I will address the UFOs. Are their UFOs? Well… anything that flies and that you do not know what it is, is an UFO. So does that not meet the requirement? OK… so I was a bit evasive. But all I will say is that this is a big universe, I would be disappointed if we were the only “intelligent” beings in it. Why have they not visited us? Why would they want to? What do we have to offer them? We are a self destructive, xenophobic society and have a tendency to destroy or take apart much of what we do not understand. For much of our history, we have been looking for new and exciting ways to destroy each other, all a extra-terrestrial visit would give us is something new to feel threatened by right now.

Alien Abductions… where do I start here? Assuming that a visiting alien is anything like us, it is plausible. Look at how we treat animals when we collect them, if there are aliens out there that are anything like us, why should we expect them to be any nicer to sub-species than we are. I would hope that any truly evolved alien species that has developed interstellar spacecraft and travel would have been smart enough to think of something like the “Prime Directive” of Star Trek fame. But I may be being too hopeful. After all, the early seafarers and explorers were doing all their work in the name of science, conquest and fortune… I may be a little wishful on the science part, but a guy has to have dreams.

I will not completely discount alien abductions… if the above is true, and there are aliens out there that are examining life that they find, then collection and examination is the cornerstone of the scientific process. But some of the other stories you hear are a little out there. You would think that any aliens that took the time to cross the ocean of space to get here, would be interested in something more that fondling overweight men and women (since it seems that those are the only ones that report it.) and inserting anal probes, then leaving chips of metal and things that look hauntingly like genital warts, on people. Chances are that if they collect a specimen, they are going to do a full examination, probably leading up to a vivisection or autopsy. Again… I have never been abducted. However if given the chance, I guess I would not complain too much if someone like Chiana from Farscape or one of those Orion Slave Girls took me for some investigation. Might be fun.

Now to Area 51 (or any other secret government base, for that matter)… OK… So Groom lake is off limits to us and they may be playing around with mysterious secret weapons and planes.

WHO CARES!!! What makes us think that there is anything going on there that we need to know about? There are certain things that go on in this country that we really do not need to know about for our own protection. There are probably MANY places like Dreamland/Groom Lake/Area 51, and some of them we do not even know about. But the question stands… why DO we need to know? In spite of this fear that everyone seems to have that the government is hiding stuff because it could hurt us, and this feeling that we, as Americans, have the right to know what our government is doing, we do not. Imagine what kind of Nation this would be if all of a sudden, one day, the Pentagon decides. “Hey… Let’s open up the bases and the various programs we have to public scrutiny. Full Disclosure, fellas! Unzip and whip it out!”

Secrecy exists for a reason. It is not only to protect our secrets and our projects from the “Bad Guys”<Insert evil mustachioed man in black fedora and cape>, but it is also to protect our citizens. If everyone knows about all the programs that the government is working on, then it will not be long before the “Bad Guys”, (remember them… they are still out there!) start thinking up ways to counter the steps we take. People not knowing what we (our government) is doing is in our best interest as a nation. If they (the government) ever decides subscribe to this fantasy that some people have that the “people need to know”, then we have effectively shot ourselves in the foot. A good analogy I like to use is this, but you have to be old enough to remember playing board games, and specifically one called “Battleship.” When you play Battleship, the whole point is to not let the other player see where your ships are. This is your little “National Secret.” However, you will do many things to get a glimpse at the other player’s board. This is nothing more than spying, and the entire game process is a simplified microcosm of National Security. Both players have secrets that they need to keep to win. Now… lets throw in another player. This person represents the “Fan-boys” that have nothing better to do than sit out on the perimeter of places like Area 51, and try to take pictures of plastic bags caught up in a dust devil and sell them off as being the latest UFO Hybrid that the military is working on.

This person is watching the game from the side. He knows where all your ships are, but he has no interest in your security, he just knows because he thinks he has the right to know. This is because you are playing with a game that he bought. The other player knows that the Fan Boy knows what you have, and knows he might be able to pick up queues from him.

I know… the above is a very simplistic (Gawd… I hate using that word) way of looking at the issue, but I think is comes close.

I will not fault the fan-boys for going out, and camping for days to MAYBE see SOMETHING that MIGHT be a secret plane or UFO or maybe a couple cows that the Air Force decided to throw in the old Trebuche to lob at the unclean masses (Monty Python joke there.) They need something to do as well. Personally I enjoy going to the air shows that the various branches put on from time to time. There you get to have some good eats, see some neat aircraft that you KNOW exist, watch some kewl fly-bys, and have a good time with some friends. That is my idea of fun, though it may not be so to others.

Does Area 51 exist? I am sure that it does… but you know. Whether they are testing UFOs, secret spy planes, super lasers or filling my granny’s bloomers with helium and calling them Goodyear, is none of my business. They do what they do because it protects us all. Personally I think they are probably having fun at the expense of all the Fan-boys and girls that camp out there. I know I would, if in their position.

Not on my time, but on yours…

OK… So I go to the doctor today and get in there about ten minutes early.  You would think that they like this kind of thing, especially since they, seemingly, have more important things to do than to wait around for you to show up late.  Add to that that I try and be courteous about things like that.  I know that I would be a little upset if I work my schedule around for someone, then they do not show up, or if they show up late.

Anyway… I get there, and fill out the little form letting them know who I am, and who I am there to see.  She takes the form, and hands me a sheet explaining their policy on late or canceled appointments without twenty-four hours notice.  I ask her, politely, “Was I late?”  she tells me no, and that I need to sign this form stating that I understand.  I told her I would, then found the nearest circular file to allow a clear understanding of how I felt about that.  Unfortunately when I turned to see what her response was, she was not there… she had not seen my desperate act of rebellion.  I had to fight the urge to start chanting “AT-TIC-A  AT-TIC-A” over and over (That reference is lost on anyone who has never seen Dog Day Afternoon.)

So… I sat.  My 8:05 appointment, which, according to the previously mentioned paper, I was supposed to be “Prompt” for and no more than “Fifteen minutes” late for, passed with no call to see the doctor.  I understand… they must have been very busy, I mean the lobby was empty, so all the exam rooms must have been filled with sick patients in need of care.  It must have been something serious too… because all the doctors and a couple of the nurses were gathered and talking.  Yeah… they seemed to be laughing a lot, but maybe there was a patient that had something really amusing.  Maybe an ulcerated and infected scrotum that left him with elephantine, basketball sized testicles.  Maybe a politician with a severe case of “Head up Ass” disease.

At promptly 8:35am, the door opened and the nurse looked around the empty room, almost as though a little confused.  Then, as if I suddenly appeared from behind the magazine table, she looked at me, then at her clip board, and asked “Are you Mr. Wright” I looked around the room and replied… “Last time my wife woke up with me, she did not scream, so I suppose I am.”

Nurse Napalm was not amused.

I was led to exam 8.  This is the eighth room in a row of ten.  All were dark, so the people that must have been in those rooms, taking up all that time, must have all been suffering from a severe case of Photophobia.  I entered the room where I was seated, and then Nurse Napalm proceeded to take my temp and blood pressure.  She asked what I was in for today, and the only thing I could come up with was; “A double cheeseburger and large diet coke.”  She looked at me, then at the chart and said I see you are here for a follow-up.

She was brilliant, truly a credit to her profession, and psychic to boot.

I agreed that that was what I was there for, then mentioned that since my being late for an appointment would have required me to pay a $25 fee, did that mean they owed ME $25 for them being late?

Again, not amused.

It was now 8:49.  I was told that the doctor would be in shortly.  So I proceeded to look through the collection of year old magazines and health brochures, learning why I do not smoke, why I should not place sharp metal objects in my bodily orifices, and saw some pretty interesting pictures of what happens when you are careless with a pruning knife, in a doctors magazine of some sort.

At 8:55 a nice man entered the room.  Not my doctor.  He was too busy to keep our appointment. I figured that it must have been one of the photophobic introverts in the other rooms that I had passed that had his attention.  This was an assistant, I forget the title, but which is almost as good, except that they cannot do all of the things a doctor can, but they know the language and get the keys to the medicine cabinet.  He told me I was fine, gave me another prescription that I probably will not take all of, and told me to come back in a month.

It was now 9:03.

I spent almost an hour for an eight minute appointment.  And what do you want to bet that when the Insurance company gets that bill… it will be for the entire time I was there.  Heck… I wish I could work on that kind of schedule.

Oh well…  This just goes down as one of those things.

As I was leaving, I heard the receptionist/nurse/forms nazi ask me: “Sir… did you sign the form I gave you?”

“Yeah…  I filed it for you.”

She smiled… but I do not think she got it.  It will probably dawn on her tonight at dinner, just as she is getting that second helping of potatoes.

Laid Off, Laid up and thrown out.

There was a time, and it was not really all that long ago, when a career meant something.  If you went to work for a company, and you showed the dedication and commitment to your employer, then you could count on keeping your job for just about as long as you wanted to work.  OK, Trust me, I am not completely naive, I know that there was a lot of the same problems that we see today, the biggest problem is that there is also not nearly the same level of dedication to the employer or BY the employer that there once was.
The problem is that as we have moved towards what I like to call a disposable society, so too have our jobs.  People are not encouraged to take their jobs as seriously today as they were in times past and with all the mergers, acquisitions, break-ups and bankruptcies… they ask; who knows where my job will be in a year or two or three.

I do speak from some experience here.  I was once a member of the Telecommunications industry working for a little known company called Brooks Fiber Communications.  I should not say they were little known, we were actually pretty well known, but only if you were familiar with the industry, which I was not when I went to work for them.  I would like to take a moment to thank a great woman named Holly Clark, should she ever stumble upon this site, for being a great mentor to me and giving me a chance that not many were willing to at the time, but I digress…

The Brooks Fiber Communications location in Bakersfield was a great place to work, and the job was really fun and I liked everyone I worked with, with the definite exception of the General Manager for that location… no… no names.  Over time I guess the company was doing too well, and someone showed interest in us.  We were bought out by MCI, then later by WorldCom, becoming MCI WorldCom.  The problem with these mergers is that the people that are organizing them and putting the details together are not thinking of the people that it will affect, they are only thinking of the money that THEY, the owners, executives and shareholders are making in the deal.  Many of these mergers are deals made of greed, nothing else.

Not taking into account the effect that Bernard Ebbers and his personal greed may or may not have caused to the company, shortly after the mergers took place, we started to hear rumors of cutbacks, lay-offs and reorganizations within the company.  It took a while, but after my newly appointed manager took over and advised several of us that our jobs were safe, the axe fell.  In fact it was not more than a week after that little speech of his, when I was taken into his office and advised that I was part of the “Reduction of redundant positions within the company.”

This type of thing seems to be happening a lot these days.  In fact so much so that you often hear people say things like, “I will stick around until the next merger.”  People are now affraid to be too secure in their jobs, and I really cannot blame them.  I do consider myself lucky, in that the company that I work for is privately held, and there does not appear to be anyone vying for our attention or looking to buy us out.  As I am writing this, I am using my feet to knock on the wood of my desk.  But I also understand that like the wind, your and my fortunes can change with little or no warning at all.

The fact is that you see things like this happening all the time now.  In my present job I used to be the primary person that would order land line (Telephone) service for my remote employees.  A little more than a year ago, when SBC “became” AT&T, I watched as several people that had become good friends were “Packaged Out” of their jobs.  One of them told me that while she was lucky and that the package was nice, and she would get to spend more time with her grand kids, she would still like to keep working, and that AT&T had made her feel a little like an old suitcase that someone found in the closet.  They had gotten a lot of use out of it, but they just could not justify keeping it anymore.

Now I open the news… ok… so I read it online, but I still like the “old school” way of saying that I open the paper.  And I read that Sprint/Nextel is laying off 4,000 people from their ranks, (also see this link) using words like “streamline” and other pleasantries that are supposed to give us the big warm and fuzzy feeling and make it sound OH SO GOOD for all those involved.  While I have friends in Sprint/Nextel, I will not press them for any details, other than to make sure that they are alright and that they are not leaving.

What is interesting in this is that they need to close all these locations, and lay off all these employees, right?  But they were still able to pay their new CEO a signing bonus and a very nice compensation package.

As I learned myself, I was not aware I was leaving MCI WorldCom, so you never know.  If my experience with WorldCom was any example, and I am sorry if this worries my friends within Sprint/Nextel, this is not the end.  There will probably be others.

This is the biggest problem that these mergers and downsizing events create.  It puts all the employees into a perpetual state of what I can only call “Anal Spasms”.  You get to the point where every time you hear anything about the company you work for on the news, you immediately start trying to remember where you left your hemorrhoid creme.  You could almost take this as far as to be similar to a Jeff Foxworthy joke… “If you jump and clinch your butt-cheeks every time your company it mentioned on the news… You might be a TeleCom employee.”

All humor aside…  If you are one of the hundreds of thousands of ex-telecom employees out there… I feel for you and I hope that you got out with some dignity.  If you are still a Telecom employee, I also feel for you.  It is a GREAT business to be in.  But with all the shifting, merging, acquiring and stuff going on, I have to think many of you are living a little like a soldier in a foxhole.  You are never quite sure on when the next shell is going to land close or on top of you.

If you are reading this, and have had an experience with something like this, please tell me your stories.  I make it a practice to not edit or omit someone’s comments.  Even if you say something that I do not like, I will still put it up… as long as it has something to do with the topic and is not spam.

The fall of Heros

Face it… there is no Superman, Batman, Aquaman or the like. We live in a world where we look for Heros in life. People that we can look up to and admire or even aspire to be. For some people that is a scientist or doctor, for others it can be a Rap star or athlete. Which brings me to my topic.

When I was young, I followed such sports stars as Bruce Jenner, Steve Garvey, Reggie Jackson and Pete Rose. I will be the first to admit that they were no saints, and they had their issues, but compared to the things we are seeing from today’s players… they were pearls.

I consider myself to be a pretty good judge of character, and fairly knowledgeable in the way people think; which is why I am truly perplexed when I see people like Darrell Strawberry, Barry Bonds… etc, who think nothing of pumping crap into their system, then get mad when they are caught.

Let’s go back and do some comparison… and we will start with my Childhood hero… Steve Garvey.

Steve is one of the many of the “boys of summer” that NEEDS to be inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame. Just look at his record by clicking here, he is truly one of the greats. He was not perfect, though. He later had some issues pop up regarding messing around with women other than his wife. There was also a suit regarding a diet program that he hyped, but this is probably as bad as it got.

Now to Pete Rose.

Every time I think of this guy I just feel sick. Here is a guy who has been up to bat more than 14,000 times, and raked up 4,256 hits… and because he gambled, he was kicked out. Talk about your raw deals. Because of his involvement with gambling, he is not eligible for the Hall of Fame. When I think about this, it makes me wonder how gambling is so much worse than using drugs… Because unless I missed something in my research, were he even have as good a player, Darryl Strawberry would still be eligible for the Hall of Fame. Now THAT is sad.

I love baseball… and I am dedicated to two teams. Saint Louis Cardinals and the Toronto Blue Jays. I watch them as often as I can. But Baseball as a whole is disappointing me these days. I look at the book that Jose Conseco wrote, and cannot help but wonder if it was a blessing or curse for those of us who are baseball “truists”. We learned about something that most of us really did not want to know about, and that many players did not WANT us to know about. Suddenly the baseball great of the modern time, are not so great. They are teaching us that a little hard work to get that extra edge is no longer required, just a friend that can provide you with some steroids. How is this NOT cheating? How is this NOT giving yourself an unfair advantage? Can anyone out there tell me that what they are doing is creating a positive image of themselves?

If we look back, knowing what we know now, to the “Challenge” between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGuire, back in 1998, we cannot think about it without a little bit of skepticism. Was the incredible feat they created that year them or was it the needle? In fact, this question was answered. Sammy may have actually answered the question by not answering it in this interview with Rick O’Reilly. To make matters worse, Conseco’s book reports that McGwire used steroids in 1998 as well. So this Home Run race was a farce.

Baseball has long been the “Great American Pastime”. Players were respected, lauded over and considered American icons. They made people, youths especially, feel that with hard work and keeping you eye on the prize, you too could be one of them. Today? What once were Heros and inspirations for the kids are now walking advertisements for cheating. They carry with them the advertisement that if you are obnoxious enough, do drugs or use steroids, you too can be the next Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire or, god forbid, Darrell Strawberry.

While it probably does not make headlines as much, I am sure that this goes on in other sports, but they just do not seem to be as visible.

If I had some say… Testing would be mandatory… all players in all sports would be tested. If you are found to have Steroids or other drugs in your system, you would be given a one year suspension… at the end of that year, if you still test positive then you are banned for life. No “third chances.”

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