Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Bozos, Blinkers, Make-Up and a Fork…

This all happens to me a lot more often than should be cosmically possible: I’m driving along a four lane thoroughfare on my way into or out of town. Up ahead I can see the rough outline of what appears to be Bozo driving a car on fire in the left lane travelling much slower than mine. The left turn signal is flashing lazily and unless they are going to enter the grass median they’ve gone as far left as they can go without making World’s Dumbest. A mile later the picture is clear: Bozo is 94, 4 feet 2, and looking through the steering wheel while struggling to reach the gas. This land yacht has three ridiculously long CB antennas needling skyward through the white smoke billowing from under the hood. It rolls over the roof down the trunk and mixes in a mesmerizing swirl with the black smoke belching from the rear. The antennas flex like fishing poles in the turbulence giving the illusion that it is actually trolling on land. As I approach on the right (think dusty desert scene from Mad Max) I accelerate past the mess and am instantly assaulted by a noxious mix of the sound of a Sherman tank and the smell of burning dirty laundry. I shoot a disbelieving glance and consider reaching out to flick shut the open gas door. This pea-green smoke machine can’t possibly accomplish more than 5 miles to the gallon and really couldn’t make an environmentalist any angrier if it were made of Styrofoam and ran on ground dolphin.

I guess I shouldn’t complain too loudly. Driving around oblivious to the world has effectively given the rest of us the opportunity to identify them by their obvious lack of skills and trademark blinker, open gas door, smoke screen, etc. Without these identifiers our safety might be further compromised. So, thanks for the heads-up, I suppose.

One morning about two weeks ago, while driving down a back road, I learned that driving while drunk apparently exhibits the exact same signature erratic pattern as driving while eating an omelet. An over-sized pick-up truck in front of me dropped two tires off the road and over steered into oncoming traffic. I squinted in the sun and looked for the outline of Bozo; and as expected, there it was – the hair, the skills, the comedic approach to my safety. A rusted 90’s Whirlpool washer slid from one side of the truck bed to the other with violent, unrestrained abandon; and to my surprise a black dog leapt into the air barely avoiding the rebounding appliance. I watched in disbelief at the next traffic light as this moron finished an omelet – with a fork. He tossed what was left on the plate (by my calculation; a small pile of chopped tomato and two pieces of bacon) and… the fork… through the sliding rear window and into the dog’s face. The dog ate what may very well have been its last meal as the light turned green. The truck left and the paper plate flipped out under my car as I swerved to avoid getting omelet in my grille.

Look, a lot of competent people eat when they drive; Butterfingers, French fries, Frappuccinos (yeah that’s right, Muffy; if it has sugar, chocolate syrup, and whipped cream it’s almost a sundae – I round up – it’s eating) … but generally mobile food is either finger food or sucked through a straw… hardly considered dining and driving… but when you can’t hold your meal you’re either eating in the wrong place or driving at the wrong time. I would argue if you’ve even considered eating with a fork off a plate on the passenger seat anytime is the wrong time for you to drive – with or without the food.

Then there are the minor offenders – Bozo’s understudies. These are the 15 MPH under the speed limit one unit traffic jams; the mobile cancer studies who smoke with the windows up and the kids in the car; the pompous intolerable who creeps along in front of me applying make-up while dodging bicycles and joggers; here’s a news flash – ever tried to write and drive? Why do think you’re any better with Mascara and eye shadow!?? You need to know something – you aren’t fooling anyone – we know you’ve done this when you show up looking like Braveheart. Then there are those who pull out in front of me to slow down; or who refuse to get into the left turn lane, so they turn from the middle lane; or those who sit at the bank drive-through with a dog the size of a rat on their lap. Look, if your dog is fully grown and still smaller than my cat you should be embarrassed… then fined. I want you to know that when I’m behind you at the bank I secretly pray your dog has a momentary bout with curiosity and gets sucked into the pneumatic tube. I fantasize its demise as it thumps into the teller booth like a chunked pumpkin and knocks the teller off her stool amid a cloud of urine-soaked fur and cheap suckers.

I wish I were a perfect driver, but I’m not. Which brings me to my point – I know I’m not; so I am careful to not pull out in front of you, or not drive with an animal on my lap, or not eat a full meal… with a fork… or not scoot over when you enter the highway. I will inevitably do something to someone from time to time to upset them but I apologize when I do it and it is far from purposeful or chronic. If you’re a clown, the next time you drive, do it with a slant towards the other driver and not so much towards yourself. Try to pay attention to those around you and consider if what you are doing is inconveniencing them… it’ll make you a better driver – and an all-around better human being. And if you’re reading this and driving right now by chance, put the phone down and turn off your blinker, Bozo – I’m the guy behind you laughing at the rat on your lap – and stop smiling and waving at me; I’m not saying hi.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Oracle of Corian…

Junk is the stuff we throw away; stuff is the junk we keep. In my kitchen, balanced between the toaster and the Tupperware; nestled next to the sink and the silverware; there’s a rarely-purged sad little drawer full of flotsam and jetsam. In it you’ll find a magnificently eclectic, oft- forgotten collection of mottled minutiae. It’s not just any minutiae; it’s the most valuable minutiae in the house – that’s why it has its very own, special little drawer. While at first blush it seems random, there is something unseen binding each item to the other; a thread that runs through each article connecting it all in a wonderfully sad, perfect little collection. A quick root reveals birthday candles, batteries, mystery screws, and displaced bits of metal and plastic – each of which I swear I recognize the longer I stare. It harbors the keys to long-forgotten locks and once-owned vehicles, locked locks without keys, and maybe even a needle or thread – but rarely both. Dig deeper and you’ll find an earring and a matchbook – both without matches, erasers without pencils, and pencils without lead; but the most poignant presence in that drawer is the memories – and that defines the collection’s value both as the sum of its parts and its part as a whole.

We are all photographers. Our experiences are our frames; and our memories are the snapshots we save in them. Like old Polaroid’s, they are yellowed, blurred and taken out of context from some distant moment passed. As my fingers push and pull at the agglomeration in the drawer more obscurities reveal themselves. The collection captures me as I sift through its members; the meter and rhyme revealed with every sweep. It speaks to me in verse as I spy every item: a pipe cleaner, a poker chip, some pushpins, and a pebble; a bread tie, a bubble wand, and some bolts without nuts. With the legato of poetry it soothes – as my mind swims in the flood of memories it affords: an old photo, an old coupon, a new penny, and some gum; a lipstick, a glue stick, some Chap Stick, some Tums… I am confronted by its beauty – comforted by its song – taken by its reveal.

In the corners and creases there live glimpses of past holidays: a sequin from a Halloween costume long gone – pinned under a bobby pin from some wedding or prom. Stuck to the back wall is a dried up Peep – my father’s favorite for each Easter he lived; and a lead ornament hook with a Christmas tree bulb that I won’t find come December. There’s a plastic spoon and a plastic favor from a birthday in ’04, and a napkin from “their” wedding – now living happily divorced; a dried weed for Mommy that was meant to be flowers, and a portrait titled “Daddy” – that was drawn in an hour. These are some of my items, and some of my memories they carry…

My drawer is a living masterwork and encrypted in it are secrets to my memories. It is a Rosetta stone that decodes my past and offers a glimpse into my experiences; a cosmic magnet slowly gathering spicks and specks of my life, my experience, into its collection. But if this collection, this scattered representation of my life, can be read it can be read only by me. If art; pastiche. If feast; a cornucopia. If color; a prism. If anything; a mirror. Each who gazes into it sees what matters to them – as it matters to them. It is special in that way; that it is unique to every beholder and carefully considers its audience before it reveals any message – any secrets.

In your kitchen, tousled somewhere below the toaster and the Tupperware; nestled near the sink and the silverware; there is an unorthodox record of who you are and what you’ve become. Go draw it open, and like an oracle throwing bones, slowly caress its contents upon your countertop and listen to what it reveals. Don’t call it junk – don’t call it anything – let it call to you. Accept the memories it holds and you will no longer question the mystery behind its customary and almost-universal presence in your kitchen.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Zero Gravity, Zero Sum...

For years I have explained to my daughters on those rare occasions it’s come up that there are two types of people in prison. Those that are there because of things they did and those that are there because of who they are. Those that make mistakes can apologize and reconcile themselves with their victims. Neither of them deserves any place in my family’s life but at least with the former there can be an attempt at closure and redemption before we go our separate ways. But those that are just bad people must be stopped, and followed so they do not have the opportunity to repeat their offences – because they will.

One day a year ago, my wife was speaking with a friend. Her daughter was a gymnast. She shared one of her daughter’s routines during a meet on film with Meg. Our oldest, Alexa, saw it and mentioned it to Reese. That was the beginning. Soon Reese wanted to do what she saw on the video. We joined Zero Gravity Gymnastics because that’s where the older girl trained. Over the last year, Reese has fallen so deeply in love with gymnastics it is hard to imagine her not participating in this sport...

Friday, May 29, 2009

A Congressional Referendum For Daytime Padiddle…

Remember Padiddle? Punchbuggy’s wonderful little cousin where one is beaten severely for being the last person in the car to notice an oncoming auto with one headlight burned out? Well, The European Union has announced a plan to have all automobiles in Europe equipped with “daylight running lights” which in effect is driving around with headlights on all the time. This got me thinking. What if we did this in the US? It’s been proposed. They say the effect on gas mileage will be minimal at best… Since I get nervously suspicious every time they start telling me what matters, I decided to whip out my calculator and start looking at the math…

…It is far, far from minimal...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Does This Blog Post Make My Ass Look Fat...!?

It could have been the involuntary fart that happened because he forgot to change the plate pin from 250 lbs. to 90 on the chest press…or maybe it was the fact he nearly crapped the abdominal machine… I’m not sure, but the point is there are some people that you just have to stare at while they work out.

I joined the gym for the same reasons everyone does – so I could look better, feel better, and not sweat when tying my shoes… OK…I wasn’t that out of shape, but I’ve certainly been much, much better. I’ve resigned myself to the fact I’m never going to be 22 again. I’ve resigned myself to the fact I’m not getting back my late-teens metabolism. But I refuse to believe that my fit days are up.

Joining a gym is a slippery venture. Comfort is the enemy of motivation. In the past, I couldn’t get my ass off the couch at 6:30 in the evening so I watched the clock until 7:30 and shrugged to myself that there is nothing I could do – it was too late. I couldn’t get my ass in gear in the morning to get to the gym and be on time for anything all day so I shrugged to myself and said I would do it that evening – around 6:30 or so… and so the cycle went. So my track record (no pun intended) has been that I wind up donating $45 to the YMCA or some other gym every month as some sort of tithe to the gods of fitness...

Monday, May 25, 2009

O Scoop, Scoop! Wherefore art thou Scoop?

I’m back. You’re welcome. It’s been quite a few months but I needed to focus my writing on some other projects… like a book. Yeah, some of you know about the book and some of you don’t. Up until now I've been pretty tight-lipped about it except for a few close friends and family. It’s a neat little (big) venture that I decided would be good for my soul since (I’m sure) my soul is damned to be stuck somewhere paying for my cynicisms…

Imagine that! An epic novel by me that we’ll see on bookshelves in 2014-2015 – imagine that! Writing and editing it so far has been both cathartic and therapeutic; and exciting and time-consuming. I find it surprisingly easy compared to what I thought it would be like...

So, anyway, in response to many of you who read Scoop’s Rant that have been emailing and asking what happened to me… I’m still here… Just a short while more and I’ll go back to ranting (part time) so hang in there… I’ll try to put something up between chapters. Look for another couple of posts within the next few weeks… I’ll get some stuff off my chest and onto yours… betcha…

Monday, October 6, 2008

Million vs. Billion – A Drift To Innumeracy...

The first time I heard the term innumeracy was in 1991. I was in college and had a psychology professor who was going on and on about how people today don’t understand the magnitudes of numbers. He had a point. I maintain it’s because practical application ceases once the numbers grow to be larger that what we encounter in our everyday lives. Most people I encounter (and I’m in the banking and finance industry) don’t have a clue what large numbers mean and what their impact is on whatever they are being applied to; whether it be financing for large projects, balancing budgets, timeframes, or even how many fish are in the sea.

I wrote this post to illustrate in real-world examples (by showing the unknown in terms of familiarity) how large numbers relate to each other and the impact and magnitude they have on us. I was compelled to write it based on a conversation I had recently with a friend of mine who (it became apparent) hadn’t the slightest clue as to what they were talking about; not because they were incapable or because they had a differing opinion from mine; but because they were utterly ignorant to the magnitude of the numbers they were throwing around – my friend was innumerate...

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Legos, Eggos, & Our Slogan Ethos…

The famous “L’Eggo my Eggo” has been Eggo’s only slogan since 1965. Through the 1970’s, 80’s, and 90’s it became a permanent addition to the colloquial lexicon of us all. Even if we don’t like the waffles, we’ve all said “L’Eggo my Eggo” in reference to something at some point in time. By 2005, it had propelled Kellogg’s Eggo frozen waffle brand to 65% market share. It is an example of how these platitudes with attitudes grab the products they represent and slingshot them into orbit like tiny satellites around our minds. They linger like voices in our heads, telling us to reach for one canned soup over another; scrub with this soap or that soap; spritz or spray on one cologne instead of another so women will act like buffoons trying to get a swatch of our clothing; or they convince us, against all logic, that our asses really do feel fresher with some particular toilet paper or other…

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Vikings, G-CHIPs, & Genomic Verity (Part 2)…

In Vikings, G-CHIPs, & Genomic Verity (Part 1)... I addressed the Human Genome Map. My conclusions were that it was incomplete both in its content and in its effort. Now, in (Part 2) I intend to discuss just how incomplete I think it is by showing you one possible future…

Monsters lurk everywhere. They manifest themselves as addictions, fears, illnesses, and sometimes just rocks and hard places. But in the not-so-distant future there will be monsters of a much different ilk. Creatures so scary we will find ourselves unable to function as we do now. Fear of the unknown will take on new meaning as “the unknown” is completely redefined in unimaginable ways...

Monday, September 8, 2008

Vikings, G-CHIPs, & Genomic Verity (Part 1)…

They’re watching you watch what you watch, so watch what you’re watching. Sound complicated? I’ll explain… But before I tackle what I mean by the whole watching you watching thing, let me start in   Part 1 with something less complicated – like, say, genetics.

In the summer of 986 CE, Norwegian explorer Bjarni Herjolfsson set sail as usual to spend the winter with his Father. This year the trip was unique in that four months prior his Father had relocated from Iceland to Greenland. Herjolfsson, despite being unfamiliar with the waters of Greenland, set out for his Father anyway. Midway through the journey, his ship was blown off-course by a storm and Herjolfsson found he was lost at sea with no compass or map. He eventually righted his vessel but not before glimpsing the forest-covered hills of a distant shore to the West. Eager to complete his journey home, He continued on to Greenland. He reported his visual discovery both in Greenland and upon his return to Norway, but few took notice. Ten years later renowned Norwegian explorer Leif Eriksson listened. Eriksson purchased Herjolfsson’s ship and sailed west from Greenland in 1000 CE. He landed in Newfoundland, Canada and continued down the Eastern seaboard to Florida. 957 years later, in 1957 CE, a map surfaced in the collection of an antiquities dealer. It was dubbed the “Vinland” Map and depicts the cartography from that very journey. I’ve seen the map and it looks more like an old coffee stain on a Formica counter top than the outline of North America…

Thursday, August 21, 2008

I see London, I see France...

These days I have pride in my country more days than not. So I cheer for our athletes “to bring home the gold.” And when the network needs to fill time, I sit attentively and listen to the special interest piece designed to get me all weepy and ready to pump my fists at the heavens for gold in the next event. I watch the athlete’s stories and I study their faces. I cry out when they fly off a beam in error, and I cry out when they fly off a beam by design. I sit in amazement at how some athletes make themselves so great and at how others even make it onto the flight to Beijing. I try to man-up and bite my lip when I hear my country’s anthem being played for a superior member of the human race and I wonder what it must be like to be a part of that time-honored podium ceremony…

I played rugby for most of my athletic career so the elegance of the Olympic medal ceremony is, well, excuse the pun but, Greek to me. If I could imagine rugby’s equivalent for you for a moment, it would most likely go something like this: a bar top instead of a podium; a bar crowd singing a very rude limerick in lieu of a formal anthem; a golden beer for a medal; and one’s own jock strap in place of the kotinos olive wreath. The only real similarity I can possibly muster (and I know it’s a stretch) between the ancient version and my rugby experience is all the nudity...

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

eHarmin’ me dot com…

There were five bar stools between my future ex-girlfriend and me. Absently stirring her drink, she stared at the TV behind the bar and yawned. The condensation ran down my pint and soaked into the pressed-pulp bar coaster. The coaster had had more to drink than me and it was then in my boredom I decided to test a theory. I had acquired a two-page questionnaire earlier in the day. I slid off my stool and walked toward her counting down the bar stools as I went. She was an early 20’s student athlete type who looked like she might enjoy dinner and a movie with the right person…

No one does that anymore – dinner and a movie. I think more people would if everyone didn’t expect that everyone else liked the hip, trendy bar scene so much. It’s like there’s a silent understanding that my date won’t like a movie and dinner if I could have taken her to a club or a bar. I say bullshit. Every woman I’ve talked to says some of her best memories are of the simple dates. I’m not talking about married and might-as-well-be-married couples, either. Married date-night is different; where the cautious analysis of your date and scud-shot conversations are replaced with familiarity and comfortable colloquy; or in some marriages, silence...

Monday, August 18, 2008

Phelps over Spitz is hard to Swallow…

OK. I gotta know… does anybody else wonder about Phelps' achievements? So no one misunderstands my angle, indulge me. Step inside my head for a spell. I’ll spill my thoughts out for you in detail to nosh on, then you decide.

Modern sports have become mired in controversy over drug use and doping. The fundamental rationale for the World Anti-Doping Code (which is wholly adopted in toto by the IOC in the Olympic Charter) is “to preserve what is intrinsically valuable to sport.” The code states intrinsic value is characterized by ethics, fair play and honesty; excellence in performance; and health. It’s a few of these that got me thinking… I’ll start with a ridiculously simplistic scenario then move into a more complex one.

Let’s assume you have two sprinters representing different countries. Both are evenly matched in abilities and health. During training, they both find they are lagging behind the field of sprinters as a result of some deficiency. The first sprinter chooses to take a drug to erase the deficit. The second sprinter chooses not to. The race is run and the first sprinter – the doper – wins...

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Waxing-off vs. The Real Thing...

Recently, I've realized that an experience one afternoon in college was to become one metaphor for how an awful lot of people enter into debates ill-prepared due to their own lack of desire to seek the facts before forming their opinion or broadcasting someone else’s.

In college there was a guy who roomed and played rugby with us who studied Karate – from a book. I’m sure he never earned a belt. What he did earn was a reputation for being the guy that told you to come at him slowly like you had a knife. After two or three restarts he would flip someone to the floor and proudly proclaim his status as a master of something-or-other. One afternoon over a few pints of Guinness we all watched the Master get the Bruce beat out of him by a guy on the tennis team. Apparently his Ninja-like discipline didn’t apply to his lips. Or, perhaps Martina hadn’t come at him as slowly as he’d been practicing. In the end, the pints of Guinness dulled grasshopper’s wounds, we laughed our asses off, and life went on...

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Island of Atlanta...

So there I was sitting in the Atlanta Airport waiting for weather to clear so I could get to Dallas for a three-day business meeting. My plane was delayed for 4 hours and according to Delta it would be 2 more.

I'm a people-watcher so I don't mind delays and layovers. I actually quite enjoy myself as long as I get to watch the human animal in action - especially when it's unaware that it's being observed. Besides the nose-picking, wedgie-fixing, crotch-scratching members of the herd there are those that are truly worthy of being studied...