Archive for February, 2010

Give Me Liberty

The surest sign that it’s income tax time is when the Liberty Tax Dancers (not to be confused with taxi dancers) start appearing on seemingly every corner. 

Typically they set up in a strip mall right between the teriyaki chicken place and the fake nails shop on a busy arterial.  Then they hire a kid to wear a tattered robe and a liberty crown (think Statue of Liberty) to stand beside the road and get your attention.  And he does this by dancing/gyrating and waving a huge foam pointing finger.   It’s called marketing, baby.

Before you roll your eyes consider this:  Liberty Tax Service is now the third-largest tax preparation company in the country.  I would love to see a profile of their typical customer.   Somehow I don’t see myself running home and getting the shoebox full of tax stuff and returning to the place that has the dancing Statue of Liberty out front.  But apparently millions of others do just that. 

It’s getting pretty crowded on our streets with sign wavers.  Between the condos, fast food, car washes and — yes, politicians — our streets have become another marketing channel.   It’s ironic that billboards have been pretty much legislated away as eyesores while these proliferate.  It’s a wonderful country.


The Olympics Spirit: Yeah Baby

We’re gonna have a good time tonight, let’s celebrate
it’s alright, we’re gonna have a good time tonight
let’s celebrate, it’s alright…baby (Celebration)
we’re gonna have a good time tonight, let’s celebrate
it’s alright, (Celebration)We’re gonna have a good time tonight
let’s celebrate, it’s alright.

Whale Tale

This is less about the fact that a killer whale killed a whale trainer than it is about the media coverage.  Let’s be clear, it was a tragedy for sure.

  Much of the media attention has been focused on the past “incidents” when apparently this killer whale killed a couple of other people.  Questions are being asked by the media like:  “Was this whale troubled?”  “Did the whale exhibit any unusual behavior that might have foreshadowed this unfortunate incident?”

The POV seems to be that the whale was at fault and somehow the notion of humans hugging, kissing, fondling, riding and feeding a killer whale in captivity is normal and the whale was evil. 

 The notion of whales being “trained” is ludicrous.  They have been conditioned to perform  to get food.  If they don’t do the performance they don’t get paid, in other words,  fed. 

I’m not an animal rights activist, but where is the surprise when a 12,000 pound killer whale kills somebody?  It is a wild animal. Despite the many wonderful hours it has spent jumping for tuna  from the  hands of these “trainers” it was never supposed to be kept in a tank of water performing circus acts.

Oh and the notion of a trainer?  Please.  People stand on the edge of a tank and throw fish in the air for the whales to catch.  What training is taking place? 

The media has interviewed every trainer and ex-trainer they could find.  They talked to PETA.  They talked to Bob (come on down!) Barker.  They talked to the star of the movie Whale Riders. They  talked to Crocodile Dundee.  (Not a whale guy, but what the hell.)

CNN had a panel discussion about this “issue”.  They devoted more time to this than health care and the Olympics combined.  There will certainly be a congressional inquiry.  

People, get a grip. I realize that there is a need to fill gzillions of hours of programming with content of some kind.  But this incident should be given the attention it deserves:  a Geraldo show.

The Will of the People

Did you see this quote?:  “As we have an economic crisis or something difficult to deal with, we suspend the will of the people for a period of time in order to do our business here.”   That was from the esteemed state Senator from Hoquiam, Jim Hargrove.

But you know what?  He was actually quite honest and really speaking on behalf of Congressmen everywhere, especially those in Washington D.C.    Over the years I have seen Congress (and I mean both state and national) become increasingly out of touch with  citizens.  The term “inside the Beltway” is synonymous with “I don’t really care what those 300 million people out there think.  I only care about the 500 0r so folks here in Congress.  We really know what’s best and we’ll talk about it some more tonight at the bitchin’ party that the Blue Cross lobbyists are throwing.”

Here is a recent example of how Wrongress works.  Senator Richard (call him Dick) Shelby has put a “blanket hold” on over 80 presidential appointments because he wants two Federal contracts awarded to Alabama (Rammer Jammer, Yellow Hammer!).

So, in Dick’s mind it is more important to have an FBI lab moved to Alabama then to have people running Homeland Security and the Department of Defense among others.

At every level legislatures don’t really serve the will of the people.  Somehow these few mostly old white men think they know what’s best for we dolts known as citizens.

What a load of crap.  This is not the Wrongress I signed up for or read about in my civics classes.  And it seems to be getting worse each day.  In the weeks to come I plan on ranting some more. 

And by the way, we people are just as much to blame.  Very few elections get even 50% of the people.  And a recent poll conducted among people opposed to the current health care reform bill showed that 41% of them had no idea what was in the bill. 

The uninformed and arrogant making decisions on behalf of the uninformed and uninvolved.

Snuggies: America’s Shame

In January, ran a story about the Snuggie and that it has sold over 20 million units.  Wow!  That means that nearly ten percent of Americans are the proud owners of a Snuggie.  For those of you who have been living under a rock, a Snuggie is a blanket with sleeves.  And it’s open in the back like a hospital gown.  

Snuggie is not the only brand out there, but it’s the most popular.  The original was the Slanket and there is also the Freedom Blanket, Cuddle Blanket and the Nuddle Blanket to name a few.   Prices range from $10 to over $60 (the Nuddle also has a foot pocket.)  The Snuggie is the market leader by far, and sells for about $20. 

Tons of articles, videos and parodies have been written about these so I won’t go into that aspect of this phenomenon.  My question is:  What problem do sleeveless blankets solve?   From what I can tell this useless piece of fleece is the worst kind of enabler:  more comfortable while doing nothing.  It is the ultimate product for couch potatoes.  Are owners finding that comforters, sweats, pajamas, robes or actual clothes simply don’t do the job?  And why would you want something backless?  I can tell you that I have never liked those backless gowns at the doctor’s office.  I always want to walk backwards or sideways or put something on over it.  So, when you are wearing a blanket with sleeves what do you do about the back?

When you see the commercials nobody is ever moving while wearing a sleeveless blanket.  Well, actually they do show people eating snacks, talking on a cell phone, reading and using a tv remote.  But nobody is actually moving.  So, the Snuggie (and the others) are simply making it easier and apparently more comfortable to do absolutely nothing.  Problem solved.

This product has about as much usefulness as a Segway.  Yeah those incredibly overpriced, slow-moving scooters that seem to only be used by overweight security guards.  There was always something more effective, faster, healthier and cheaper than the Segway:  legs.

Oh, wait! Segways and blankets with sleeves.  Now those people getting bigger on couches have a way to move.

The DOL: Final Reckoning

D Day.  We get up early and Tom practices backing around a corner and parallel parking for an hour or so before the driver’s test appointment.  By the way, in 40 years of driving I think I may have backed around a corner five times.  Sort of the licensing equivalent of mandatory Geometry in high school.  I have never, ever used Geometry since that high school class… which I barely passed.

In the waiting stall.  I’ve checked our Proof of Insurance card 20 times.  Tom has checked it even more.  He has his permit.  He’s nervous.

A young guy approaches.  Young guy… good.  Speaks English really well.  Also good.  “Learner’s Permit?” Check.  “Registration?” Check.  “Proof of Insurance?” Fuckin’ A. 

I get out of the car.  They head out.  I go inside and wait for what is supposed to be about ten or fifteen minutes.  I am so nervous.  I text Barbara… she’s nervous too.  Lotta nervous energy goin’ on.

I stand near the take-a-number machine.  An Asian man approaches and starts talking to me and gesturing at the machine.  He can’t speak English and I can’t understand him.  He points at the Letter/Number signs at the counter.  Ah, he needs a number.  I push it for him.  He nods his head in appreciation.  During my wait he returns and takes a number a couple more times.  Huh?

How in the world does a person who cannot speak English get a driver’s license? 

Barbara texts me to tell me she is more nervous.  Me too.  Oh wait, Tom is pulling in.  The tester guy gets out and walks away with no expression on his face.  Tom sits in the car.  I’m watching from the inside of the DOL.  He gets out… grim-faced.  Oh God, don’t tell me he failed. 

Tom is about 15 feet away and I’m walking toward him.  We make eye contact.  Then I see the most amazing and wonderful smile.  We hug.  “I passed Dad! I got a 94.”  (80 is passing) 

Tom said he was very nervous starting out.  But the guy was calm and cool and relaxed and that helped.  Tom said he quickly got more relaxed.   He lost a couple of points each on parallel parking and backing around a corner, but generally did very well. He texts Mom and tells her the good news.

Back into the DOL and we take a number to pay for a driver’s license.  The number is, incredibly, 666!  Please tell me there won’t be a problem.  It actually goes pretty fast, including the guy taking a break at 665.  Tom spends the time texting all his friends.  We pay the money, Tom gets his picture taken and they hand him his brand, spanking new driver’s license.

At the car, Tom says:   “You drive, Dad.”   I turn to him and say: ” Tom, I’m very happy for you.  I only ask one thing:  Never use your cell phone when you’re driving.”  He says:  “I promise Dad.”

After several appointments, tons of waiting and frustration and confusion (I didn’t even mention the fiasco when they entered the wrong social security number for Tom into their data base) we go home.  Tom has a driver’s license.

What did we learn from this?  Not much except that given the importance of a driver’s license,  the DOL must feel their role is to throw up as many hurdles as possible so you feel a real sense of accomplishment when you get the license. 

I only felt relief.

The DOL: A Huge Setback

It is Saturday afternoon and Tom and I are in our “waiting parking stall” to take the driving test.  Tom is nervous. I’m nervous for him.  There are few rites of passage as important as being able to drive.  It means independence, freedom and the start of becoming a more responsible person. 

The tester approaches.  She is a middle-aged Asian woman.  Hmm.  I have yet to see a good Asian driver of either sex.  My Asian friends have confirmed that they are genetically predisposed to not driving well.  They are often very disciplined people who are high achievers, yet can’t drive worth a damn.  Go figure.

She says:  “Learner permit.” Check.   “Registration.” Check.  “Poof Inshuance.” Check.  “Yo inshuance not ok.”  Huh?  We just got the new proof card in the mail and this is it. “No good.”  What?  Why?  “It say it start on 11th, today is 7th.”  But, we couldn’t get this card without insurance.  “You go inside, make new pointment.”  But my wife can bring the other POI right down and be here in ten minutes.  “Too late, you go.”  She walked away.

Tom is upset.  I’m upset.  We are covered by insurance.  But we can’t prove it.  Are you f***ing kidding me?  Tom is a good driver.  He has done driver’s ed.  He has driven everywhere, every time of day.  But we can’t prove that we have valid insurance.

We go inside and get to see a scheduling clerk right away.  I say:  “We were told our insurance is not valid.  We were issued this card yesterday and replaced the old one.  We can’t get this without being covered.”  The guy nods his head and says:  “But it could also mean this is your first insurance coverage and it starts in five days.  If you can’t prove it, how do we know you actually are covered?”

He schedules us for the 23rd, two weeks away.  For Tom it seems an eternity.  He is mad at me and can’t believe that we would screw up something so important to him.  I apologize repeatedly and text Barbara the bad news.

At home Barbara is so upset she decides to go back down to the DOL and get a driver’s test appointment sooner than the 23rd.

Soon I got a text from her at 2:30: “Scheduling clerk is gone. I have to wait for an agent.  I have a code and a number and have no idea how long it will be.”

Next text @ 2:49:  “I will probably be here a few hours.  I have an A code and they are only helping F’s.”

Next text @ 3:42:  “They were making great progress on A’s but now have stoppped calling them.”

Next text @ 3:59:  “There are A, E, F and R.  Maybe M’s too. Guy next to me is A and he just got called.  Maybe there is hope.”

Next text @ 4:06:  “Everett this Friday at 9:45am.”

From the time Tom and I first arrived at 1:30 until the final text from Barbara we spent a combined two and a half hours at the DOL that ultimately resulted in a new appointment.  And a very unhappy Tom.

Next:  Will Tom get his drivers license?