Tuesday, September 27, 2005

No, really--the check IS in the mail

A little over two months ago I bought a wireless router at Best Buy. With the $30 in rebates I could mail in for, it was a pretty good deal. And in theory it would facillitate surfing the 'net on my new laptop while sitting in my comfy chair.

Of course, the rebate was broken up in two parts (one from Best Buy, and one from Linksys, the manufacturer), so I had to send off two envelopes with copies of reciepts, etc. The only other time I'd sent away for a rebate it took so long for the check to come that I'd forgotten what it was when it showed up. But with this deal, the first check (from Best Buy) came a few weeks back, and I was impressed (so to speak) with its relatively speedy arrival. It came in a plain white envelope which, to be honest, I didn't even open for two days.

Yesterday the second rebate check (from Linksys) showed up in the mail. And when I say the check showed up, I mean the check showed up. It was sent plain, in no envelope, with the "payable to" line pulling double-duty as the address line for the post office. (The metered mail stamp was up in the corner.) As with the first check, I didn't recognize it as something immediately worthwhile, since it looked more like one of those junk mail scams made to look like a check. I almost threw it in the recycling bin with the ads that were in my mailbox that day, because I wouldn't imagine they would send it in such a manner.

Well, I wouldn't imagine it would get delivered without someone making off with in somewhere along the way. Sure, it wasn't much, but I know the banks don't check real close on deposited checks these days.

Perhaps my general distrust of humanity is not completely warranted.


Monday, September 26, 2005

Update on the streak

I don't like to toot my own proverbial horn, but I have been maintaining a streak for quite some time, and I haven't mentioned it in a while, but nonetheless it's still intact so I figured I'd give myself some props (as they say). This goes back so far I have long since lost track of how many consecutive days it has been, but rest assured it spans well over a decade--quite possibly two. The streak: a consistent pattern of not living up to my potential.

It hasn't always been easy--sure, most of the time it has been, but not every moment; I mean, over the course of that period I have, on occasion, been tempted to make something of myself, to see to fruition something I started, to do my little bit to make the world a better place. However, somehow I have found the strength of will--or rather, I should say, I have failed to find the strength of will--to keep this streak alive. How? All I can say is: I'm a natural. Kind of like Robert Redford in that movie, except without the baseball smashing the lights and the sparks raining down while running the bases in slow motion.

Please--hold your applause. I do it for the love of the game.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Solving the energy crisis

We all know that oil is going to cease to be an available fuel source some day. Changing our dependency on fossil fuels is a complicated issue, with many people with higher IQs than me working on the problem. However, I believe I may have found a viable alternative, which I humbly offer for the consideration of the powers that be.

KFC corn on the cob.

(Yes, the side dish from the Colonel's chicken franchise.)

Allow me to admit up front that I don't know how the restaurants prepare the corn, or even whether or not it's actually edible. To be honest, I have not been able to eat the corn on the cob ordered with a KFC meal in quite some time. What I do know is a meal that includes the corn on the cob, wrapped in a single layer of aluminum foil, should come with an oven mit. However, that it is very hot initially is, in an of itself, not that impressive. What makes it the potential solution to our impending catastrophe is the fact that, wrapped only in a single layer of (unimpressive) aluminum foil, it retains that tremendous heat for hours. Hours.

Stick with me here.

If we simply determine how to harness the power of the heat, say, to turn turbines to generate electricity, to heat our homes, to run our vehicles. Perhaps we simply need to get science to develop an ear of corn the size of Cincinnati and use its heat to power the country. Or not. I'm just brainstorming here; the exact details I leave to those thinking heads to work out. I'm an idea man.

No need to thank me. Just doing my part to save the world. As long as those corporate bastards at KFC's parent company will play ball. Otherwise, you can blame them when society collapses. At which point, that secret blend of eleven herbs and spices won't do them much good.

Tuesday, September 20, 2005

Cheap laughs--actually, free laughs

I am always amused when I spot an unobservant motorist turn the wrong direction down a one-way street in downtown Los Angeles (where there are many). Sometimes the error is caught before the turn is completed, sometimes the driver pulls a quick u-turn, but occasionally some fine and potentially tragic entertainment ensues when the driver proceeds blithely down the road. The absolute zenith of this experience occurs when the oblivious one starts to honk at oncoming traffic in his lane, believing the other is in the wrong. That is good stuff. Better than television--or at least funnier than that "The War at Home" show Fox put after the Simpsons. (Insert your own head-on crash joke here.)

A quick glimpse to the parked cars on the right facing the opposite direction would reveal the mistake to the driver, but of course, were he likely to notice such things he would have caught the one-way sign back at the intersection, and well… it’s not like one should be inconvenienced with having to pay attention while behind the wheel, especially when there are lots of tall buildings to distract. And then I’d have to alleviate my boredom with the thoughts in my own brain, rather than admiring the stupidity of others. Gratis.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

When I don't win the lottery

I found a story from last October where a winner of the lottery was shot to death by police during a fight at a bar just outside a Seattle Seahawks football game. After I got over the shock that this sort of thing occurred outside Oakland, I read on and learned that the man fired a handgun during the incident (which made me find other articles to verify that it was Seattle and not Oakland). While some claimed he did so into the air “to break up the fight,” the police (and many witnesses) claim he fired at a fleeing vehicle, then crouched behind a car and pointed it at them. The article concluded by mentioning the victim had used some of his winnings “to buy a house for his mother and cars for his siblings.”

Even assuming he fired the weapon only to snap the combatants out of their rage, he still was carrying the gun and thought firing it would be a good idea to resolve the situation. So while he may have been good to his family in light of his good fortune, it may be presumed he held some questionable ideas. Whether he was deserving of winning is another question, but one could argue that, judging from this, he had some serious karmic payback coming to him.

I do not, as a general rule, play the lottery. That’s not saying I have never purchased a ticket over the 20 years that California has been running one, but the few times I have done so resulted in nothing, so there was no reinforcement to make me continue. Simple enough from a behavioral science perspective.

However, on a more philosophical level, I cannot claim to be completely comfortable with the notion of hitting that kind of financial home run the first time I step up to the plate, without having worked my way up through the proverbial minor leagues; if I haven’t done something to earn it, either literally or figuratively, then not only cannot I not feel good about it, but I worry about the retribution the universe will eventually unleash upon me. (I’ve seen way too many episodes of “The Twilight Zone” to know how that works.)

I back it up with political concerns regarding how lotteries exploit the poor (which, let’s face it, they do—it’s not like the typical lottery player has a lavish portfolio of investments and savings), and how the justification for the implementation of the lottery here—to benefit the schools with part of the proceeds—has completely fallen by the wayside in the lottery advertising and thus (to the extent it was ever the case) in the minds of those playing. However, part of me worries that were I to play and win a large sum it would change my life not by alleviating concerns but by augmenting them; even if nothing bad happened right away, I’d always be wondering when it would be coming.

On another hand (if I may misappropriate that expression here), perhaps I have read Shirley Jackson’s “The Lottery” too closely.

Anyway, if you’re like most people to whom I have attempted to explain this, at this point you’re probably thinking I am completely insane (which is more or less accurate, but not for the reasons you’re thinking). How could one be so neurotic about a shortcut to the good life?

I used to work in a department where each week someone organized a collection of a dollar from anyone who wished to participate in a group purchase of tickets, and each week I’d decline. I claimed I didn’t want my bad luck to bring down the others. Telling them I was philosophically opposed to the lottery might work, but more often confused them, so I developed the luck joke. However, still sometimes they would try to convince me to chip in and it was always using the same argument: “Wouldn’t you feel bad if we won and you were left out?” At that point I’d smile politely and at least pretend to go back to working. (And in truth, no, I wouldn’t. If they all suddenly left due to sudden riches, at least their insipid questions would leave with them.) Last I’d heard, they still hadn’t won anything more than a pittance (which merely went back into more tickets the next week); the mind reels at how much those same dollars would have accrued in interest over the years, but there’s no excitement to that.

I think a lot of people take some comfort in the idea that there is some higher power that rewards the worthy and punishes the unworthy. That’s the backbone of a number of your more popular religions. More concretely, we appear to have a built-in sense of what is deserving of reward, and generally it seems to involve either intense suffering or utter selflessness. The producers of “Extreme Home Makeover,” for example, seem to seek out those who meet both criteria, which is why audiences are not merely envious of the new homes but sympathetic with the recipients (and the show does well despite the annoying host and other stars). The producers of “Pimp My Ride” make at least a token effort to find worthwhile individuals, but those whose rides get pimped tend to get picked for their ability to appeal to the younger MTV demographic, where the focus is much heavier on envying the ridiculous upgrades (and the show does well because of the charm of the host and the wacky personalities of the workers at West Coast Customs). When watching “Makeover” I tend to be moved (even though I know I’m being manipulated by editing) because the recipients are duly presented as deserving; when watching “Pimp” I tend to wonder how long before the young person’s revamped vehicle gets stolen or how long before the flat-screens in their sunvisors prove sufficiently distracting to cause an accident (because you know they watch while driving).

However, all that understanding of our innate sense of reward and punishment goes out the window when there’s millions to be won without having to live in some remote and unforgiving locale without getting voted off. Perhaps others simply have a better ability to delude themselves into believing they have somehow suffered and/or given of themselves sufficiently.

In any case, on some level I fear what might come of my life in the wake of suddenly coming in to such a sum by luck alone. It might not involve meeting a gruesome ending like the Seattle man. It might be something as simple as never getting to trust anyone new I meet. (That would be the T.Z. ending, of course—driven mad with my own paranoia.) If only I could attribute all of my problems to an inadequate bank account, rather than to the inadequacies of my personality—or, perhaps, more often, to the inadequacies of others’ personalities—then I’d find playing the lottery more alluring.

For whatever reason my standards are inexplicably consistent. Clearly I need a more convenient way of viewing the operation of the universe in this regard; this notion of “there is some modicum of justice meted out to the deserving” needs to be replaced temporarily with the heartless “everything is just random chance and there are no inherent consequences,” just like others apparently do while playing the lottery. (It’s an intriguing combination of creationism—er, Intelligent Design—and evolutionism, when you think about it.)

Thus, I am not insane enough.

Hmm. The more I think about it, the more convinced I become that if I suddenly became filthy rich I would not merely suffer paranoia but arrogance as well. Heck, that’s a given. If the way people with really expensive cars drive (as though they believe they own the road) is any indication, great wealth would make me more of a jerk than I already am. It would only be a matter of time before I went off the deep end and started hunting the poor for sport, a la Dr. Moreau.

Of course, as long as I pitched it appropriately, it could be developed into a successful reality show, which would make me even richer. And I wouldn’t go near a Seahawks game, so the cops would never be near me.

Excuse me while I run down to the 7-Eleven for a quick pick. (The Mega Millions is up to $200,000,000 tonight.) As Daffy Duck said, “Consequences, shmonsequences; as long as I’m rich.”


Back in 1989, Camper Van Beethoven included on their album Key Lime Pie a song called “When I Win the Lottery” (which is quite a good song, and you should look into hearing it at your earliest convenience). The protagonist of the song is a less-than-popular member of the community, an ex-con mechanic who aspires to win the lottery. Like many who dream of such fortune, he notes he would use some of the money in philanthropic ways. Well, at least, ostensibly so.

In the verses he explains how he would buy the affection of the women in his neighborhood by getting them new TVs and silver-plated six-shooters, and how he would make a large donation to the city “so they have to name a street or a school or a park after me.” By the end of the song he has explained his plan to buy the American Legion hall and paint it “red with five gold stars” just to piss off the hypocritical, self-righteous veterans. (Don’t get all bent out of shape if you haven’t listened to the song and paid close attention to the entirety of the lyrics. Back to our topic at hand, whatever that will prove to be.) In short, the protagonist is not one to be admired, but on the whole, he’s not necessarily more despicable than the others in town who look down their noses at him; he doesn’t deserve to win the lottery, but then again, who does?

Tuesday, September 13, 2005


I think it's time for the Mr. & Mrs. Smith billboards to come down. The movie opened three months ago.

I'm just saying.

Monday, September 12, 2005


There are no frequent readers of this site, for the simple reason that clearly I don't update it often it enough to warrant anyone visiting it with any regularity. That's not pessimism; it's just the case. (Plenty of other things I've written here do qualify as pessimistic, but not that.)

There are many reasons why I don't update this more often, but I think it boils down to this: You really must have more important things to do.

Don't get me wrong--I appreciate you taking the time to bother reading this nonsense, but I think it a bit egotistical of me to expect your schedule is so open that you have time to spend reading this except once in a while, and even then it's only when you choose to ignore some more important activity. Thus, it is my overwhelming sense of consideration for you, gentle reader, that limits me in regards to adding entries here.

No need to thank me. (And all this time you thought me merely lazy.)

Remember: Sometimes, it's better to not give than to force reception.

Now get back to whatever you should be doing. Or don't. Far be it for me to tell you how to live your life.