Saturday, February 14, 2009

The New Depression Blues

Check out this new video about the economy. Copy and Paste the link below:

Sunday, September 23, 2007

The Psychic Fair?

The Psychic Fair?

I knew I was in trouble the moment she said, “Are you busy Sunday?”

The Mrs. rarely asks me this sort of loaded question and when she does I can expect an unusual request to follow. “What,” I grumble, “do you have in mind, exactly?”

She stands in front of me with a load of fresh laundry clutched to her chest, her knees slightly turned in, the posture of a wife who needs a favor. “I just thought you might want to go down to the Psychic Fair with me and have a reading done,” she says brightly. She had coaxed me into attending one of these events years prior and my lack of instant enthusiam was showing.

At that time, a million years ago, we were dating and in the interest of keeping her interested, I was a much more suggestible person. Now that I’ve hardened to all sorts of fun things like flower shows, George Clooney movies and exercise equipment, it was easy for me to decline, at first.

“But my friend the astrologer will be there,” she pined as she dropped the laundry in the basket and draped her long arms around my neck. I’m a weak man when it comes to this kind of personal negotiation tactic and I caved instantly.

Fortunately, this particular Fair was close to home and the admission fee was only five bucks per reading. At the previous Fair I got roped into, the psychics must have known I was coming. They lightened my wallet by about 100 bones by the time we schlepped out the door with some incense, personal rune stones and a ‘kirlian aura’ photograph in hand.

But at least they had some style. One standout was ‘Cassandra’, a large white-haired grandmotherly type who took one look at me and the wife and said, “Yer gonna have twins!..yep, yep,” she said, swaying her head from side to side, eyes closed. “ Runs in yer family..long, prosperous life, lotsa kids...that’ll be $15.00.”

The next lady we ran into there was a past life regression expert. She had some little shiny rocks she called ‘rune stones’ and she moved them around with her long, elaborate jewelry-adorned fingers and told me, “ You were a africa,” she did the same closed-eye, head roll and included,
“you worked with monkeys and blood.” This was about the time that AIDS was on the front page of the paper nearly every day, so the connection seemed a bit dubious.

I forked over another fifteen bucks and we moved to the last booth, a ‘kirlian photographer.’

This is a deal where you give them ten dollars and a grumpy looking guy has you sit in front of a white screen where he takes a picture of you with a big box-style camera complete with a big black cape that covers the whole unit, him included.

You have no idea what he is doing, unless you happen to notice the box at his feet where he deftly exchanges colored gels between subjects. I heard him snap a gel into the frame in front of the lens, looking like a confused grim reaper getting dressed in the morning, he says, “ Ok.. SMILE!” and he clicks the shutter. It’s a polaroid insta-matic and the picture pops out the side of the shrouded set-up.

He grabs the picture and hands it to his girlfriend/assistant who does a mini-reading of the result. “ Ohhh.. you have a very cool disposition,” she says wide-eyed as she hands me the print. It’s me alright, except I have a big bluish halo around my head. The same thing happens for Mrs. A, except the grim photographer has installed a red gel this time. The assistant proclaims her to have ‘a fiery personality,” and we shuffle off to buy some incense.

In all, this is a harmless kind of diversion. No worse than going to a casino or carnival, although I would have enjoyed trying to guess Cassandra’s weight.

I was still reflecting on the lost weekend of a previous Psychic Fair when we arrived at the new Psychic Fair. This was a place I’d been to before, having dropped the Mrs. off for some sort of herbal reason. We walked in to see the usual assortment of interestingly dressed individuals. Barefeet, long dresses, guys with shirts open to the navel and odd looking jewelry adorning everyone. Incense is a pre-requisite as a mood setter and, lucky for me, there was also cake and cookies. The Mrs. signed up for a reading with her astrologer friend as I pondered the list of services.

“Reiki Master, Medical Intuitive, Astrological Reading, Runes, Cranial-Sacral, Massage Therapy..” Behind the counter a moon-eyed girl was lighting more incense and swaying to some new-age music trickling from a boombox. Mrs. A disappeared around the corner with a man wearing socks and sandals. I decided that the only thing I was curious about was my health.
Having a bad back is a pedestrian malady, but it was the only thing I have to complain about, so I handed moon-girl a five-spot and signed up for the Medical Intuitive.

I was perusing the bookshelf and some shiny power rocks when someone called my name. She was an imposing figure, a substantially built woman with a wild mane of reddish hair. I followed her through the corridor as she used the whole thing up getting to our destination, a small darkened room lit by good-smelling candles and with two chairs and a card table. We sat and introduced ourselves.

Madame Tonya got quiet, closed her eyes and tilted her big head back. “ Ahhh.. I’m sensing something... about ....your teeth.” She opened her eyes and widened them, waiting for a response from me. “ Well..” I began, “ I think they’re doing alright.” Tonya squinted at me, “ Hmmm.. do you grind your teeth, there’s something about the grinding of teeth..” she grimaced at me, baring her own strangely smallish teeth for emphasis.

“ Do you gooo to the dentist?” she said, somewhat accusatorily. I felt a defensive reply welling up, but stifled it, “ Every six months... no cavities!” Tonya leaned back in her metal chair, “That’s strange.. oh well.. I think..I sense something about...your LIVER!” I nearly chuckled at her groping investigation. “ I do enjoy my beer.”

“Ahhh..” Tonya toned, “ You need to drink more water!” She seemed satisfied at this, but I hadn’t heard a word about the reason I had signed up. We sat not talking for a few moments, the ticking of her egg timer the only sound as we sized each other up. Psychic or not, I figured she needed a clue. “You know, I was wondering about my back, it gives me a bit of trouble and..” Tonya’s face softened and she giggled, “ Now we’re on to something,” as if she’d ferreted out the information on her own.

She leaned forward again and closed her eyes. Abruptly, she straightened up and looked me in the eye. “ YOU... need to go to a gym.” Again, I stifled a chuckle. But when she got to the part about me lacking discipline, I had to let it out.

“ It’s true.. I’ve never been much of a gym rat.” I disguised my mirth about the pot calling the kettle black and Tonya went silent again and then said,
“ You know… maybe this message is for me.” That pretty much tore it. It was all I could do to NOT ask HER for five bucks, seeing as how I’d done most of the accurate psychic-ing.

The egg timer dinged and I thanked her and made my way out through the bead curtain. The song ‘Fortune Teller’ by the Who was running through my head as I signed up for the astrology reading. I was nonplussed by the inexplicable medical intuitive, but because I have read my daily horoscope in the paper for years, I figured the astrologist might be worth a shot. More than this though, I was checking up on this male figure that so interested my wife.

I was just admiring some fairly accomplished water colors of scantily-clad goddess figures when the wife returned. “You signed up for Wallace too?... Oh..he’s good.” Wallace was just coming out of the Meditation Cave. Socks and sandals; not a good sign at any kind of fair. I tried to withhold my judgement as I shook his hand. Wallace was a kindly looking guy, about 55, dimples creased his tanned face, a gold-lined tooth popped out of his smile, his long gray hair slicked back like George Peppard’s during the ‘Banacek’ era.

I followed Wallace back to another little room while the Mrs. chatted with a woman in a long peasant dress. Wallace’s set-up was impressive. A brand new lap-top with a neat astrological map on the screen graced the little table, an ink-jet printer sat next to some thick books covered with horoscope figures. Wallace asked me my birthdate, including the hour of birth in a soft-spoken voice.

He punched a few keys and grabbed a pencil to use as a pointer. “Here’s your saturn house with virgo rising..” he thumped the eraser on the table, as he flipped open a book. “ The confluence of these two planets here indicate a good month for you..” How could I argue? So far so good.

He tapped on the keyboard and a new screen popped up. “ Ohh.. ahh..this is Mercury ascending into the house of Uranus.” I didn’t need to be an astrology devotee to not like the sound of this, “You’ll feel some frustration, some uneasiness around this time.”

I was already feeling some uneasiness, so I asked him, “Can you pin down particular dates?”

“Oh sure.. just pick one,” I wanted to know about the predictions the Mayans made about the end of the world on my birthday in the year 2012. “Ok..let’s see..” Wally didn’t flinch. He tapped away at his keyboard and a big round map came up on his screen. “ It says.. ‘you will go on a long journey.’... but you need to have your spiritual house in order.” Wallace added. He frowned and furrowed his brow.

“I don’t think the earth will end..” he assured, “Let’s hope the Mayan’s calendar was a misprint.” I think that was supposed to be a joke, but I was still thinking about who to believe more, this man who sat in front of me with all the latest gadgetry full of the products of ages of refined theories, or the prognostications of a long dead culture of mexican indians who, really, had nothing to prove to anyone in the future.

Wallace didn’t have an egg timer, but he stood up and offered his hand again. He seemed ok to me, and his message was inert enough to have been at least as good as the stuff I read in the Times.

I grabbed Mrs. A just as she finished plunking down the cash for an ornate aromatherapy diffuser and escorted her past the coterie of be-gowned women and slickly dressed men with piercing eyes and stone jewelry.

Safely in the Van on the way home, I did damage report on our wallets.
“Well, I’m down only fifteen about you, hon.” The Mrs. thumbed through her pocketbook and hesitated, “ Oh..I guess about...twenty...twenty-eight..thirty-eight..” before she could finish, I bailed her out, “ Don’t worry about it, sweety, as long as you enjoyed yourself, it’s better than going to the casino.”

She agreed and I thought about the comparisons. They both alleviate you of cash, and they’re both rooms full of smoke, but at least when you leave the Psychic fair with your money gone, it’s not the end of the world.

Monday, August 20, 2007

Write Something Funny

I don’t know if I’m very good at humor writing, looking at past postings, the subject matter of this blog has been about things like droughts, flat tires, lost loved ones and admonishments to spay your cat.

Not the stuff of mirth, no.

When I’m the subject of the joke, I don’t find it all that amusing, but others might. Take for instance the time I went for a drive with some friends and their dog. I sat in back, Bob and Julie had the driver and passenger seats. In the back with me was Roger the Rottweiler. Bob and Julie love Roger and take him everywhere. And Roger loves to ride in the car. I tolerate Roger and because I’m a dog-person myself and I think I’m attuned to what these animals are saying when they communicate with us. For some reason, on this day Roger did not want to go for a ride. He refused to get in, jumping over me and out my open window, running in circles barking. Julie rounded him up and put him back in while Bob fired up the car. Off we go, Julie primping in the mirror, Bob wondering what’s wrong with Roger and poor Roger, spinning madly in the seat next to me. We are almost at the park when I realize what Roger is saying. He’s saying, “ I have to go to the bushes..NOW.” Just as I begin to tell this to my hosts, Roger says it himself, in a way that everyone can understand. Pandemonium is the keyword here as Roger relieved himself there in the backseat. In the moving automobile, in traffic, there was little we could do but scream at poor Roger, which only seemed to make things worse. It’s difficult to say who suffered the most, the leather upholstery or my new hiking shorts and boots, hat and sunglasses. Windows down, pulled to the side of the road, damage control began. Roger sat down now, apparently much more comfortable, and I sat, covered in Roger-stuff, afraid to even touch the door or window handles.

Another time, I was requested to check up on an elderly neighbor who hadn’t been feeling well. His son would be away on a trip and he told me “Gramps will come to the door if you knock.” On my way to work, I pulled in and bounced up the steps. Three knocks and no answer. I knocked again, louder.
Gramps had a heart condition and his son sounded quite concerned. No answer. I peered through the windows but saw nothing. A loud hello, and louder knocks. Now I’m concerned. What would you do? I called 911 on my cell-phone. The fire truck arrived moments later and I briefed them while they rounded up the door-beater tool. One good ramming and the jamb gave way. Inside, no Gramps. Outside, here comes Gramps, out for a walk to get the morning paper. Is that funny? Gramps sort of got a chuckle out of it.
Maybe I can write funny after all.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Dented Pride

I pride myself on being an observant sort of man. Especially when driving. Probably got it from my Dad. I remember riding to work with him as a boy in his big brown car when I noticed he was driving in excess of the posted speed limit. Like anyone wouldn't, Dad didn't appreciate being chided, especially from a whippersnapper 12 year old, so he calmly eased up on the pedal and said, 'You're an observant sort of boy, that's good son.'

I think about his nuggets of appreciation often, and I remind him of some of them when we get together. Even today, in the interest of keeping my wits about me, I practice being observant, swiveling my noggin around like a bobble-head doll until it drives my wife to comment. 'What....are you looking at,' she'll say, and I happily point out three of four interesting things that we were in the process of passing on the road.

For the record, my accident rate is superb, having only backed into someone’s car on a couple of occasions. Once at the meat market and another time at the bank. Both times, it is my contention that the lady snuck up on me, wheedling up to within inches of my bumper just as I was backing out. I contend further that the lady might have made note of the big white back-up lights that come on whenever anyone is backing up a modern car. Too bad, the insurance companies don't see it this way.

I believe that there is a phenomenon surrounding those of us on the road these days and I aim to be the first to notice it publicly and thereby coin the phrase that it should forever forth be known by. One version of the phenomenon is this; You are driving along minding your business and you come to a stop sign. At the stop sign there is an automobile that has arrived at his or her side of the intersection at nearly the same time as you.
You peer at each other, straining for a second or two to discern the other's intent and then you ease onto the gas.

As you enter the intersection, your counterpart is also entering along with you. Alarmed, you do one of two things- You either hit the brake or you hit the gas pedal, your opponent does the same and somehow, hopefully, you jostle past each other without coming metal to metal. But as you do you notice something about your new pal's car.

He or she has a big, nasty dent in exactly the place where they might have contacted your bumper if you hadn't been so lucky. You marvel at this odd coincidence, and continue on your way, but it registers in your mind. At least it does in mine. I think a happenstance like this deserves a name. I racked myself for catchy phrases and came up with a few.

Evi-dent was my first pick. It's a dent and the poor driving skills of the car's owner is evidenced right there. Not entirely happy with this, I forged on coming up with Intent-a-dent, which is just how it sounds, it’s a dent and the driver’s intent could have been collision, but Crunch Hunch reminds me of some sort of snack food.

No Brake Mistake was a bit clumsy, and Smash Rash sounds too much like a punk band, so I finally settled on Dentifestation, which I think says it all more elegantly. I'm sure other people notice this from time to time, but now that I've pinned a name on it, I'm confident that I'll always be referred to as the guy who coined the term ‘Dentifestations’.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

How To Handle Telemarketers

In one of my previous incarnations, I was a telemarketer.
I worked in the ‘boiler room’ of a local monthly newspaper, making calls to renew subscriptions to any hapless individuals who picked up the phone. But because my personality was not aligned with this sort of work, I only lasted about 6 months.

The room was filled from 5:00 to 9:00 pm each night, elbow to earpiece with people from several different walks of life. Old war Vets, bored housewives, people ‘between jobs’ and students. Pretty much the same cross-section as the people we were supposed to be troubling for a sale. While the majority of the sales staff was as half-hearted as I was, some of my co-workers were quite good at the job and regularly took home sizeable paychecks. Back in those days, and at this particular business, we didn’t follow a strict script. We were just taught to offer ‘special rates’ and to not take no for an answer, at least up to the point where the client might become upset. For me, this meant only selling subscriptions to people who already subscribed to the newspaper and resulted in few sales. But for the big sellers in the room, a different technique worked fairly well. They ask a few personal questions (to set themselves up to seem like a friend) then they would listen for a bit until the right moment came when they would ask their new ‘friend’ to help them out. “I only need to make two more sales and I’ll get the free trip to (fill in the blank).” This was effective for those sellers, but it felt too disingenuous to me. Another problem I had with the job was when I would reach a fragile sounding, older woman on the line. I would make my pitch and they would respond with, “Mr. Wilson died last month…I don’t think we’ll be needing the paper anymore.” This felt like a gut punch to me and I would apologize for their loss and after hanging up, I would cross their number off the list. But the hard-nosed sellers used this as an opportunity. “Oh…that’s unfortunate, Mrs. Wilson, do you have any sons? Wouldn’t you like to keep the paper coming, just in his memory?” It wasn’t bad enough that we called at dinnertime, annoyed them with chitchat and then browbeat them to make a sale. And although I knew that some of the sellers in that room were not capable of doing anything else to make a living, I soon went back to my previous job with a new appreciation for what it takes to eke out a living.

In my informal poll of friends, I learned that most of them just hang up on the sales call, a few try to be polite, and a few use their Caller ID to ferret out the annoyance in advance. Many telemarketers pop up as ‘Unknown’, however and if you don’t answer, they’ll just keep calling back. My friend, Crazy Jack, who lives under the big water tower behind the Mall told me that ‘if they wanna loan you money, just tell ‘em you just filed for bankruptcy and you could really use some dough!’ He also suggested that you can just ask them to repeat themselves over and over until they hang up, but the first idea is lying and the second one takes too much time.

For me, having done the work and knowing that if some of those callers weren’t working the phones, they might be on the dole instead, I tolerate them, try to be pleasant and when they’re done with their spiel, I ask them to remove our name from their list. That having been said, ultimately, your telephone belongs to you and it is your resource to be used as you see fit and at your discretion. Therefore, it is your right to have control over the calls you receive and because telemarketers are intruding on you at their convenience, not yours, you shouldn’t feel the least bit guilty in quietly hanging up on them. If you are still bothered by telemarketers, there are ways and resources to help limit the number of solicitations you receive. Firstly, make your existing number unlisted. It’s worth the small monthly fee. Then contact your credit card company and ask them to mark your account as ‘Do Not Solicit’. Do the same thing with your bank. Finally, the National Do Not Call Registry at will allow you to register your home and/or your cellphone for free. Telemarketer calls should drop off significantly about 30 days later and the registration is good for five years.

But if you’re like me, you may want to just not answer the phone all the time, and when you do end up with a solicitor on the line, be nice to them;
they may be annoying sometimes, but a job is a job.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Acetone In Your Tank

If you didn’t hear it from me, the new rumor is that it may be possible to increase the fuel efficiency of your vehicle by as much as 20% by adding a simple, easily obtainable chemical called Acetone.
According to my research, when used as a fuel additive, Acetone raises the octane level of gasoline and helps combust all of the fuel when it is in your carburetor or fuel injectors.
Your engine is supposed to run more efficiently and noticeably smoother.
The mixed fuel reportedly can reduce hydrocarbons in the exhaust too, which is better for the environment. My reason for pursuing this is because I’d like to improve the enviroment in my wallet first, which, because of the terrific escalation of fuel costs, is a lonely, cobwebbed place.

The formula is as follows: 2.5 to 3 ounces of Acetone per 10 gallons of regular gas. Accuracy is important here, so you should measure carefully and not veer from the ratio. Too much is not good. Most modern vehicles do not have high enough compression to justify using high octane fuels. The testing indicates best mileage is usually obtained with 85 or 87 octane gasoline, which is Regular fuel.

Now comes the warning:
I cannot recommend that people do this for a number of reasons. Acetone is a highly potent, flammable chemical that you should not get on your skin, it is routinely prescribed as a paint stripper and could mess up the finish on your car and if you put too much in it could hurt your engine. In other words, from here on out, you’re on your own.

I will disclose to you that I heard about this idea on George Noory’s Coast to Coast radio show and so I figured what better idea than to ask a true gear head who has his own radio show. Tom Turner is the guy and his show is on KVI 570 (the same station as the Coast to Coast show) on Saturday mornings. Tom owns an auto repair shop called Performance Prep on 348th and Highway 99, the place where I’ve taken my cars since about ’86. Tom knows things about cars and engines that normal humans can only wonder about. Via email, I asked his opinion about Acetone as a fuel additive and Tom said, ‘Seen it…try it if you believe it, but also try Toluene too….report back.’ Toluene is another chemical that is popular with the racing crowd, but though is it commonly found in off-the-shelf fuel additives, in my online research I found less information to support it as an option for general motorists than I did for Acetone.
I didn’t tell Tom that I was going to write this article, so I should say that he would not endorse that anyone should monkey around with fuel mixing without consulting their mechanic first. (Ok Tom?)

Tom also suggested that the cost of additives is not worth the gain in fuel mileage, but I found a large amount of feedback indicating positive results.
If you’re concerned about what this substance might do to your engine, the general consensus appears to be that, because Acetone is already a component in gasoline and fuel additives, it should not cause any harm to your hoses or rubber parts. It can even be used in diesel fuel to reduce soot.
Additionally, in the pursuit of improving your fuel mileage, before resorting to becoming your own garage chemist, it is recommended that you have a fresh air filter, high quality spark plugs (NGKs are good) and synthetic oil in your engine.

And while it is true that this information is (so far) purely anecdotal, I have to wonder: If this is truly an inexpensive way to get an additional 100 or more miles per tankful, why aren’t the big oil companies just providing this solution? You con-theory people there are furrowing your brows over this idea, I’m sure, so I’ll conclude by saying this. Try this at your own risk. Go see Jim at New Lumber and Hardware and buy 32 ounces of Acetone from him. (Go ahead and tell him what you want it for, he already thinks I’m crazy so you can blame it on me). Pick up a long snout funnel there too. Then drive the gas out of your car until there’s hardly any left. At home,
put 2 ½ to 3 ounces of 100% pure Acetone into the tank. Keep a rag handy in case you spill any on the car. Now wash your hands and drive to the station and fill up with ten gallons of regular fuel. Write down the mileage on your odometer and hit the road. I urge anyone who is considering this to get on a computer and look up the information. This is all fairly new information, but if it turns out to be a positive way to save fuel, tell me about it. Tell your neighbor and your mechanic too.

Thursday, February 23, 2006

It's Resolution Time Again

Last year I posted a list of the basic resolutions that people routinely try to accomplish each year and I listed my own self-improvement goals and how well I fared from the previous year. I won’t bore anyone with how much more I’ve grown as a human, suffice to say that if I were anymore angelic, I’d never be able to eat devil’s food cake again.

Still, I know how difficult it is for the poor man and woman on the street to keep their sites on personal triumphs like dropping ten pounds, quitting the coffin nails or even just being nicer to jerks on the road. And while I may be a near-angel, I’m no shrink, so I’ve enlisted the help of my friend, University of Podunkia trained psychologist, Dr. Werner Bratwurst, who is a shrink. The following is a question and answer session that the good doctor agreed to do.

Me: Dr. Bratwurst, what advice can you give to people to help them keep their New Year’s resolutions?

Dr.B: Vell, furst uf all, you must not vait until ze last minute to make your zelf-promises. I suggest that you make New Years rezzolutions right away, und make them for the next fife years…all in advance!

Me: Ahh, but Doc, isn’t this a little presumptuous? Are you saying that you should expect to fail every year?

Dr.B: NEIN!…my uneducated little friend.. I am saying zat people should expect to succeed gloriously at every silly personal goal zat they attempt. When ze truth of their abject failures come back to hit them like a shovel full uf rocks, then ze slate is wiped clean und we can really begin to change.

Me: Ohh..ok, you want to ‘tear them down to build them back up’ the Marines, right?

Dr.B: VAT are you talkink about, Marines? I’m telling you zat people have verrrry high expectations uf zemselves, und in order to create a lasting impresssion on ze psyche, you must throw it into a tizzy, a maelstrom,
a gevundischstrichen.

Me: (wrinkling brow, cro-magnon style) Ehhh..ookay. Gevundistiten, right.

Dr.B: Ven you begin to rebuild your confidence, it is important to repeat to yourzelf, ‘I vill nefer again do’ ziz, or zat.’

Me: ziz…or zat?

Dr.B: Und you must have conzeqvences to pay if you fail to succeed.

Me: Ok, so what sort of conze…what sort of payment would you suggest?

Dr.B: Chocolate Cake

Me: Chocolate cake? But that doesn’t sound like much of a punishment, Doc?

Dr.B: Und zat iss vhy I am ze Zychologist und you are ze see, mein liebling, ze punishment must be worse than ze crime.

Me: Doc, I still don’t get it. What is so terrible about Chocolate Cake?

Dr.B: If you had my vife’s chocolate cake, you vud know! (rimshot)

Me: made a joke! That was funny, Doc…ahh, was that a drum-hit I heard in the background?

Dr.B: Yah, I am toying vith you a little, you are so boring. My friend, ze one thing you must understand about making und keeping ze New Year’s resolutions is zat..(click) bzzzzzzzzz

Me: Doc?….Dr. Bratwurst?

I must apologize. The doctor’s advice isn’t as valuable as I was hoping.
But he did make one point that hit home with me. Whatever we decide to do to improve or repair our personalities, we should try to keep a healthy sense of humor about it. Happy New Year!