Sunday, November 29, 2009

Totally Random 3.0

You might be able to call this post 'sex, drugs and rock & roll.'

- I saw a TV commercial today for a drug used to treat acid reflux. It’s called aciphex. Would you use a product pronounced ass-effects? What were they thinking?

- Saw this one in Consumer Reports: a sleep aid product called Calms Forte. Look at the picture: on the box are the words “Non-Drowsy Formula.” A non-drowsy sleep aid?

- The Beatles Rock Band, an interactive Wii game, is now available. Think about this: most people who buy Wii games are in their twenties or teens. Some of their parents are in their upper thirties or lower forties. The Beatles broke up in 1970. If you have any doubt about the lingering power of the Beatles, just do the math.

- Paul McCartney could be your father. Or grandfather.

- Back to drugs for a moment … have you ever heard the disclaimers in ads for prescription drugs? Especially the one relating to risks involved with a certain condition that could last for four hours. You know what I’m talking about. Is the risk because of the condition or because of what you might attempt to do with that condition for four hours?

- While putting those last random thoughts together, a slightly disturbing image popped into my head: Hugh Hefner and his seven live-in girlfriends.

- The bookends in the picture are two of his current girlfriends, 20-year-old twins. Hef is 83. OK, a fiftysomething and a thirtysomething might be a stretch but it’s not odd. An eightysomething and a twentysomething? That’s just odd.

- I’m all for no-limits aging, but there really are some limits.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Don’t Tell HIM or HER

If you ever climb the corporate ladder, try to remember what it’s like on the first few rungs.

Here are some trends I’ve observed in large companies in many industries: Companies fire workers but still want all the work done. Fewer employees handle more duties and increased responsibilities but have less time to pay attention to details. Management strategy still encourages delegation but there is no one left to delegate to.

High quality productivity and improved morale could probably result in more profitability, but who is going to tell top management that productivity and morale are suffering because there is too much on our plates?

There are so many things going on in some workplaces that no one has the time to focus on any one thing; quantity trumps quality. Back in the day – and I’m talking about less than ten years ago – workers had what is now considered an obsolete luxury: time to do things carefully and correctly.

Sure, there was waste in the past. We could all have done more and done it faster. Haven’t we gone too far the other way now?

But who is going to tell upper management? Do you want to be the person who tells the regional or national managers that we’ve got too much to do? You’ve got your own job to protect so you are likely to pick your battles and that isn’t one you can win. Your local managers might get the point, but they have their own jobs to look out for so they’ll pick their battles too. The regional and national managers? Same thing.

It is like they forgot what it is like down here. Or maybe not. Maybe they’re just picking different battles.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Obeying the Law of Averages

I used to brag about how it’s been more than twenty years since I was in a car crash and that the three accidents I have been involved in had all occurred at speeds of less than 30 miles per hour. Now one of those statements is no longer true.

Tuesday night I was the middle car in a three-car wreck.

The short version: drizzling; three lanes of bumper-to-bumper stop-and-go traffic heading north at 30 mph or less; driver in front of me hit their brakes, I hit mine, driver behind me didn’t; it happened fast enough that I had nowhere to go to avoid being hit but slow enough that I had a second to brace myself; he sort of knocked me forward, which means I was almost stopped when he hit me; I might have hit the car in front of me but there is no damage to the front of my car and that night I saw no damage on her car either.

A few ironies: all of this happened as we were driving past a police car stopped in the shoulder dealing with an earlier crash so the police didn’t have to be called; another accident happened next to us while we were exchanging information; the drivers in the other cars in my accident are ages 20 and 19, which means neither of them were even born the last time I had a traffic accident.

Some good news: nobody was injured, no air bags deployed in our cars and the damage to my car mostly involves broken plastic parts and a dented trunk lid.

Some bad news: I’m even more paranoid about my daily commute. In a post a few weeks ago I mentioned that I had witnessed two serious accidents this year from only a few car lengths back. I said I planned to not obey the law of averages. Apparently I obeyed that law after all. Hopefully this is the only time.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Random Thankfulness

Even though I’ve had many ups and downs this year, I have a lot to be thankful for and I’m happy we have a holiday dedicated to giving thanks.

Here are just a few things:

I’m thankful for my sister, who has also become a friend over the years.

I’m thankful for my friends, from my oldest in suburban New Orleans to my newest in North Carolina and all the others who have enhanced my life along the way.

I’m thankful that the traffic accident I was in a few nights ago was relatively minor (more on that in another post later).

I’m thankful for a great job, a great boss, great co-workers and the opportunity to make a living doing things I love to do.

I’m thankful that my wife is still speaking to me after I’ve been uncharacteristically direct and blunt about how I’m feeling these days.

I’m thankful that my dogs love me unconditionally.

I’m thankful that I live in the greatest country on the planet and have the freedom to live the life I want to live.

And I’m thankful to you, whoever you are and whether I know you or not, for reading my ramblings.

Happy Thanksgiving Day

Monday, November 23, 2009

Fitness Update

Down to 188; first time under 190 in ten years. That strategy of trying to lose one to two pounds a week is still working. After three years in a row of failed attempts at losing the twenty pounds my doctor said I needed to lose, I might finally succeed.

I say all of this to encourage you or anyone you know who has tried and not succeeded in getting into the shape you/they want to be in. Keep trying.

Eight pounds to go and six weeks to do it in. The holidays might be a challenge. I'll keep you posted.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Another Perspective

Twenty years ago I did a lot of ‘self-help’ exploration. I read books and articles and listened to tapes. That six-month period of self examination began a positive pattern that continues to this day. The two biggest influences were Alan Loy McGinnis’s book “The Power of Optimism” and, are you ready for this, the Tony Robbins “Personal Power” series. Sometimes Robbins is as obnoxious in those cassettes as he was in the infomercials, but much of the advice was solid and effective.

The biggest takeaway: you get what you focus on!

Lately I have focused on the gloominess of winter and my occasional holiday depression. I wrote a pretty depressing post about it on this blog recently and I posted some very gloomy pictures on another blog.

Upon reading all of that, a dear friend reached out to remind me that there is more to winter than short days and dead trees. She provided me with a different perspective and some other aspects of winter to focus on: such as curling up with a good movie, eating stick-to-your-ribs food, watching that beautiful first snow, throwing a beach-themed party.

Oh, in that same email she called me a melodramatic poophead. Fortunately, in other emails she has called me a warmhearted man and she says she enjoys our friendship as much as I do. So I guess I’m a warmhearted poophead friend.

I like that … it’s an interesting perspective. :)

My holiday depression will still come and go this season, but thanks to her and other friends, maybe the blues visits will be short.


And now that I’m in a better mood, I posted some pictures on my photo blog showing off a more cheerful focus on fall.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Cookie Monster Turns 40

I can’t believe I let this go by without a comment. Cookie Monster turned 40 a few weeks ago!

The milestone made national news. This friendly monster is a television icon as well as an educational icon. His influence, along with that of his Sesame Street cast mates, is an indelible part of growing up for people in at least two generations.

Cookie Monster has taught many lessons and I think he is a good role model for my thirtysomething friends who fear turning forty … look at how good he still looks!

In the era of health-conscious eating, even a cookie monster has to adapt and get creative. During the past year he has been extolling the value of eating fruits and vegetables and mostly avoiding the cookies. Childhood obesity is a growing problem and Sesame Street has always been an effective teaching tool, evolving along with societal changes, so this new attitude makes sense.

But don’t we all still like cookies?

So I’ve got two words for Cookie Monster when it comes to combining the health benefits of veggies with the taste of something sweet: carrot cake.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Life Lessons in Lyrics 2.5

So damn easy to say that life’s so hard.
Everybody’s got their share of battle scars.
As for me I’d like to think my lucky stars that
I’m alive, and well.

It’d be easy to add up all the pain
And all the dreams you set and watch go up in flames;
Dwell on the wreckage as it smolders in the rain;
But not me, I’m alive.

And today you know that’s good enough for me.
Breathing in and out is a blessing can’t you see?
Today is the first day of the rest of my life
And I’m alive, and well.

sung by Kenny Chesney and Dave Matthews

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tis The Season, Dammit

Dark, bleak, gray and hazy, a quiet November morning signals the beginning of holiday depression season. Happy family holidays punctuate the remaining six weeks of the year with periods of joy. Those same days are also the root of gloominess in late fall and early winter.

As adults we try to recreate the happy holidays of our youth. However, as children we didn’t have to make choices about family obligations, work or other socialization invitations, infinite gift choices with finite resources. We are supposed to be joyous as we jostle through the crowded malls or try not to spill a drink on the boss at the company party.

Some of us battle the disconnect between expectation and reality. If we get out ahead of the inevitable feelings, face them head on, plan for them and lower our expectation, we survive months eleven and twelve and start month one of the new year with new perspective and optimism.

I predict my own holiday depression this year will resemble the roller coaster my life has been on, but overall it’ll be just slightly worse than average. As long as I think it through and don’t overthink it, I’ll be fine.

If you know me in real life, you know how reluctant I am to show my depressed side. I always want to be the friend you count on and the shoulder you cry on when you need your spirits lifted. I’ll still do that. But this year I might need your shoulder a few times too.


Sometimes gloominess leads to visual creativity. Check out a few new 'solitude' photos on my other blog.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Not-so-random Lyrics: Some Days

Some days are dry, some days are leaky
Some days come clean, other days are sneaky
Some days take less, but most days take more
Some slip through your fingers and onto the floor

Some days just drop in on us
Some days are better than others

Some days you wake up with her complaining
Some sunny days you wish it was raining

Some days are honest, some days are not
Some days you're thankful for what you've got

Some days you hear a voice
Taking you to another place
Some days are better than others

Performed by U2

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Veterans Day Sale

Have you ever wondered why there are holiday sales even on holidays that are not associated with gift-giving?

Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter – all have natural gift-giving components. Hanukkah too, for children. But Memorial Day and Independence Day? No. Veteran’s Day? No gifts. In fact, many of the veterans gave us the gift of freedom.

Yet there are Memorial Day Sales, Independence Day Sales and Veterans Day Sales. I don’t really understand why there are happy ads about discounts on shoes, furniture and cars on a day set aside to honor sacrifices made to ensure our freedom.

And this one is even more disturbing: the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day Sale. Twenty years ago I was employed in a workplace that was ninety-five percent African American. That holiday was relatively new then and a black co-worker predicted that we’d see King Day sales one day. We laughed about a potential commercial announcing the department store sale in the house wares department, specifically bed sheets. My laugh was a bit more hesitant than his. This past January I saw a television ad for just such a sale. I wonder what his take is on that now.

So on this day, Veteran’s Day, honor those who have served in our armed forces. And while you’re out, get twenty percent off on winter apparel at …..

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

My Evil Twin

Most people have a collection of sometimes opposing personality characteristics. A person can be loving and hateful, funny and serious, good and evil, happy and sad, optimistic and pessimistic. Some of those characteristics are more dominant than others, so a person may be more of one thing than another; but the complete picture of a person includes some amount of all of the characteristics.

People who know me in real life generally think I’m a nice guy. I’m optimistic, positive, loving, caring and happy; sometimes I’m also funny, serious, energetic, lazy and boring.

But most people I know never seen my dark side. I can be cold, hurtful and vengeful, but I have to be pushed pretty hard for those characteristics to come out of their hole.

The biggest aspect of my dark side, however, is anger and it takes less pushing for that to show.
It doesn’t show much, but tonight Evil Bernie is definitely in the house. My anger is usually fueled by other people’s selfishness or disrespect. One incident here and there doesn’t mean much, but a few of those injustices piled on top of each other can unlock Evil Bernie’s cage.

Tonight’s pile is mostly stuff like the dangerous behavior of rude drivers added to an ‘it’s not my job’ attitude on the part of a few co-workers added to the general ‘cut the jobs but increase the workload’ attitude in my company added to the fewer hours of sunlight this month added to not being able to count on some other people to do their part of things added to my ongoing ‘finding myself’ journey added to anticipation of the upcoming holidays and the depression that sometimes comes with them and on and on. The end of my eleven-freakin’-hour workday was the tipping point when I was the only one left to do yet one more thing that had to be done.

So here I sit, pissed off that I didn’t do two or three other things I planned to do tonight, nursing a sore throat from screaming at other drivers during my ride home – clearly the stupidest part of Evil Bernie because they will never hear my outrage and it wouldn’t matter to them anyway, which pisses me off even more – and I come home to a dark house because a certain someone didn’t turn on any outside lights – my street has no street lights so it’s pretty damn dark here at night – and I had a damn salad for dinner because it is too late to have a big dinner because I’ll have to go to sleep in a little while so I can have another night of not-enough-sleep so I can get up early tomorrow and start it all over again.

See what I mean? It piles on.

Some people who do actually get to see my Evil Twin are amused because this guy is so different from Regular Bernie. Well I’m happy they’re amused but I’m not especially amused tonight.

Fortunately this side of me does not dominate and I almost never take it out on people. I predict that by mid-morning tomorrow I’ll be back to normal and Evil Bernie will again be locked away. I say mid-morning because I’ll be damned if I’m going in to work early to start this shit all over again. I’ll get there when I get there, which will be some time after I run the errands I had planned to run tonight.

Wow, you’re still reading this? I’d thank you but Evil Bernie is still at the keyboard. Regular Bernie will thank you tomorrow.

I’ll close with a line from an old TV show: “You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.”

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Too Close

I don't like this forecast ... a Cat 2 hurricane brushing just east of New Orleans in the next 48 hours. You probably know I have lots of family and friends in that area. Maybe Ida won't amount to much; keeping my fingers crossed.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Contemplating the Universe

Have you ever tried to picture the size of the universe?

I thought about this a few weeks ago as I watched the movie Men in Black for the tenth or fifteenth time. Part of the plot involves an alien searching for a galaxy. The humans all assume the galaxy is some huge thing but it turns out to be contained in a pendant attached to a cat’s collar.

Picture that: an entire galaxy fits inside a glass ball the size of a coin.

The alien turns out to be a giant roach-like creature.

We think of size in terms of inches and feet or centimeters and meters, from a few to a few hundred. We think of distance in units of miles or kilometers, from a few to a few million or billion.

Sometimes when I try to contemplate the universe (I actually do that sometimes. Don’t you?), I start by picturing an atom. What I remember from science class is that an atom consists of electrons orbiting a nucleus; it looks like the planets orbiting the sun.

So maybe our solar system is an atom.

Every object is made from millions of atoms. There are millions of billions of objects on each planet; each planet orbits around the sun; some scientists say the sun orbits around a central point of a galaxy; and there are millions of galaxies.

Following that line of thought, Earth might just be an electron orbiting the nucleus of one of the millions of atoms on the wing of a cockroach scurrying across the surface of a huge planet. Armageddon might be what happens when someone steps on that roach.

It’s all relative, isn’t it?

Men in Black seems like a goofy, clever sci-fi comedy with a few sight gags and script points that provide hints of social commentary; but in the middle of all that you might find some interesting contemplation of the universe.

Stalking The Stars

Remember Kellie Pickler from American Idol a few seasons ago? She didn’t win, but she did start what is now a fairly successful career in country music. She’s had a few hit songs and has toured with legend Alan Jackson and her young-but-extremely-successful friend Taylor Swift.

I met her twice this year, two months ago when she was blond and this week as a redhead. She is a very interesting person with a wicked sense of humor and an A.D.D. personality. She comes off as a ‘dumb blond’ but my sense is that she is very smart. Her tough life has led to some great songwriting and her range of song styles within the country genre could very well extend the life of her career beyond the typical two-to-five-year pattern of today’s recording artists.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Random Quotes About Disparate Topics

I was thinking about two usually unrelated things today … friendship and stress. I am not connecting these topics; I just happened to be thinking about both. Here are a few interesting quotes about each, starting with stress:

- Stress is when you wake up screaming and you realize you haven’t fallen asleep yet.

- “Reality is the leading cause of stress amongst those in touch with it.”
Lilly Tomlin

- "It's choice - not chance - that determines your destiny."
Jean Nidetch

- “If you ask what is the single most important key to longevity, I would have to say it is avoiding worry, stress and tension. And if you don’t ask me, I’d still have to say it.”
George Burns

- "When you have to make a choice and don’t make it, that in itself is a choice."
William James

- A friend is someone who understands your past, believes in your future and accepts you just the way you are.

- A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.

- Friends are like bras: close to your heart and there for support.

- Sometimes you put walls up not to keep people out but to see who cares enough to break them down.

- True friends are the ones who never leave your heart, even if they leave your life for awhile. Even after years apart, you pick up with them right where you left off, and even if they die they’re never dead in your heart.

- A true friend is someone who thinks that you are a good egg even though he knows that you are slightly cracked.

Monday, November 2, 2009

Getting an award for doing the right thing

Getting an award for doing the right thing – how cool is that?

During a recent annual awards ceremony, the Washington Regional Alcohol Program honored me and my radio stations for spreading the word, but they deserve major kudos for effectively dealing with alcohol abuse in the Washington DC region.

They conduct education programs for adults and teens, in schools and businesses. They lobby lawmakers in Maryland, Virginia and DC for stronger anti drunk-driving legislation. And they have helped remove more than 44,000 would-be drunk drivers from local roadways during the past sixteen years through their Sober Ride free taxi service on selected holidays. And they do it all with a paid staff of only three people! The rest is done with volunteers and great partnerships with sponsors and law enforcement agencies.

I’m thankful for the award, but all I’ve done is given them an audience. W.R.A.P. does the hard work.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Daylight Savings Time Randomness

- So just how much daylight did we save this year?

- Does it pay interest?

- We now have Daylight Savings Time for 6 ½ months a year. Doesn’t that mean Daylight Savings Time is now really the standard time?

- Why don’t we have it all year?

- Sunset where I live is at 5:08pm today. Doesn’t that suck? And it only gets worse for the next seven weeks. On December 21st, sunset will be at 4:48pm.

- Hmm, where did I put those vitamin D pills?