Sunday, February 26, 2012

Do you need the best of the best?

I get so tired of everyone wanting/needing the best of everything. Who do they think they are, anyway? I do realize that having the best of something is a good feeling, but is having the absolute best always necessary? Not a bit. Not one damned bit. Let me try and pony up some examples for you.


All one has to do is peek at the ingredients list on both generic and name-brand medications to see that they are identical, folks. I cannot for the life of me understand why Tylenol would be any better than Walgreen's acetaminophen. Whether you pay big money or small money, the headache disappears. You don’t have to be an economics major to see that.

BMX Bikes

This one really gets to me. I never raced on the pro-circuit when I was a kid, but I know a few who did. Those kids needed better bikes than a Huffy, and I understood that. But my immediate circle of friends rode through the hills on dirt trails and did a lot of wheelies and low-level jumps. My Huffy survived over ten years of abuse, and I never once cracked anything. Why a seven-year-old kid would need a $300 BMX bike is beyond me. What does a kid like that weight, anyhow? Fifty pounds? Sixty-five pounds for the oddly big ones? Trust me, that kind of weight isn’t going to break any department store BMX bike. It just won’t.

Vehicle upgrades

Oh, this one is a biggie. I’m in a Jeep club, and trust me when I say that if you aren’t buying a lift from Rubicon Express, you are wasting your money according to 90% of the members in the club. That information is just simply 100% false. I don’t baby my Jeep Cherokee when I hit the trail. I’m rough on stuff, and I run my Jeep hard. The “cheap” Rusty’s 4.5” lift I put on in 2007 is still going strong today, and flexes like a sumbitch. In fact, I’ve pulled many an RE owner out of a good stuck. It’s all how ya drive, not what ya spend. That’s a fact.

The newest thing

It’s like an epidemic, people wanting something just because it’s the latest edition. I’m a chess-engine fan, but I’m a fan for the right reasons. The engine that I mainly use to analyze games is rated at about 3,100 Elo (for you non-chess lovers, that’s extremely high. The best human plays at the 2800 level). Yet, engines are coming out that play at the 3,300 level, and folks go wild over them. Why? For what we need, 3,100 is just fine, friends. Unless you are looking to have a competitive engine (they do hold tournaments), there is no reason to spend your money on the latest and greatest.

The same goes for phones. I realize that iPhone 4 is newer than iPhone 3, but if iPhone 3 is working for you, why do you feel you *must* upgrade? It’s the same with computers, too; unless you are a hard-core gamer who really and truly needs the power, or maybe you somehow rely on your computer for a living, why do you need the newest, fastest thing on the market? The second you leave the computer store with your new laptop, it’s already outdated. Why worry about it? Enjoy it, use it, be impressed with it for what it is. Don’t let it eat at you that someone has something better; someone is always going to have something better. Live with it.

Items in general

If I tell a friend I got a nice new pocket knife, he’ll ask why it isn’t a Benchmade, Spyderco, or a Kershaw. Umm, how about because I actually use my knives and sometimes lose them? A good Gerber or Buck is fine with me; I don’t have to spend over $100 to get a quality knife.

If I show off a nice flashlight I recently purchased, I’ll be asked why I didn’t go with SureFire or some other tactical brand. Dude, relax. The one I got has five LED lights in it and has gotten me out of *plenty* of jams. I don’t need something that will light up the dark side of the moon, I need something that’ll help me see at night, and my $10 Eveready never, ever lets me down.

Or, maybe I show them my new Casio watch, and I get asked why I didn’t get a watch like theirs which weighs five pounds, is shock-resistant and can be submerged for ten miles before the face cracks. Also, it cost more than my grandparents’ first car.

Umm, do any scuba diving lately, Mr. Indestructible Timepiece? Taken any bullets you need to block with your wristwatch? C’mon, friends, it’s a watch. I got mine for $20 at the Walgreen's and it’s literally one of the best watches I’ve ever owned.

Well, you get the point. I could go on and on, here, but I guess I’ll stop because my keyboard is smoking. Folks, please, while the best is nice to have and sometimes even necessary, I’d be willing to bet you could get away with second or even third best and never know the damned difference in most cases.

Shop wisely. :)

Friday, February 17, 2012

Soldiers are just doing their jobs

Why is it that everyone feels the need to thank a soldier for his service, but nobody says thanks to a police officer? Just like the cop, a solider is doing the job he is getting paid to do. Only, when we are in trouble, we don’t call the Army, we call the police. We call the “local heroes”.

People aren’t getting together and flying across the seas to foreign lands to fight just because of the good in their hearts. Soldiers get paid, and they are told what to do and where to go. In theory, it’s an honorable profession, but if you watch the news at all, you know they are humans who make mistakes and do heinous things sometimes.

I find it comical that the guy shooting the guns is held in high regard, but the shot-caller, the President, is constantly flamed. Without being told where to go and who/what to destroy, a soldier is just a guy in funny-looking clothes. The President makes all the decisions.

When the parts guy gets your alternator from the back, do you look at him with a glean in your eye and thank him for his service? No. He wouldn’t get the alternator for you if it wasn’t in his job description. It’s what he does to put food on the table, same as anyone else.

So, why the soldier? A few years ago, it was fire men and women. Now, it’s soldiers. I hope the cops get a turn, because they do some really nasty stuff for us while we are at home, asleep in our beds. I guess it’s just me, but I like to focus on the local guys. The attorneys, the doctors and nurses, the police and fire, the forest rangers; these are the men and women keeping our communities going. As far as I can see, soldiers fight political and religious battles, and poke their heads in when other countries are warring. Umm, thanks, I guess.

And no, I’m not speaking as an armchair quarterback, here. I know several police officers and several soldiers, and none of them feel like heroes. They are men and women who signed up to do a particular job, and they do it as best they can. That’s neat and all, but I’m going to thank the Mom and Pop grocery owners or the local city council for working hard to keep my immediate community thriving. Then again, I’m not much for bandwagons.

Don’t get me wrong, here, I’m not bashing soldiers in any way, shape, or form; I’m just pointing out that the compulsive need to thank each and every one we see is a little out of hand. Okay, a lot out of hand. It’s gone into the realm of ridiculous.

Yes, we fouled up when our boys came home from ‘Nam. Society wasn’t as informed as it is today and, by and large, had no understanding of the awfulness they went through. Now that has changed a little, but the pendulum has swung completely in the other direction to where if you wear a uniform, you are to be revered as godlike. Not for me.

I do honor our service men and women and I do think it takes a certain kind of someone to do the job effectively, but I also realize that the Commander in Chief should also be revered highly. After all, he’s the guy moving the pieces on the chessboard. Anyone want to give a couple props to Obama?

Nah. I didn’t think so.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Whitney Houston: Singer and Addict

I don’t usually touch stuff like this, because I really don’t care much about celebrities and what they do, but I like to attack faulty reasoning and “sheeple”, so I’ll do it this time.

Folks, the hard truth is that a drug addict died at a relatively young age. This same thing happens countless times in our country and all over the world each and every day. Just because she was able to sing like the wind is no reason to herald her death any more than we would a poor person who left three kids behind in the ghetto.

Whitney Houston is a household name. I do realize that, and I greatly appreciate her voice and even her music. She wasn’t a B-List star, that’s for sure. But, just like Janis Joplin, Jim Morrison, and Jani Lane of Warrant, drugs and booze proved deadly. Sure, we lost a great talent, but we didn’t lose a hero. We, as a society, didn’t experience a tragedy.

A tragedy is when a cop or fireman dies while saving people; a tragedy is when babies get neglected by their parents; a tragedy when horrible things happen to great people. Whitney could carry a tune and had a spectacular set of pipes, but that doesn’t make her a great person. I didn’t know her, but I know she had a drug problem and now she’s dead. Surprised? I’d be a fool if I were. It’s just as simple as connecting the dots. It was coming.

Today I literally got called a dick when I posted my views on Facebook. No, I’m not jumping on the bandwagon and pretending I was a huge Whitney fan and that I’ll be spending the next three days listening to the Bodyguard soundtrack, wondering what the hell went wrong.

I know what went wrong. Everyone does.

As I said, I can appreciate the loss, and I understand that it’s horrible someone so talented died so young. It’s sad, it really is. But, let’s keep it where it belongs, on the back page of the newspaper. There are far worse things happening within miles of you, every single day.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

A Good Jam

Yesterday, I had the opportunity to play with a couple of very talented musicians that I hadn’t made noise with for twelve years. They were my first band, in fact. They do classic rock and blues, which isn’t exactly my favorite genre, but I don’t hate it. Besides, they are open to newer stuff. Nice.

I learned how to play the drums in 1994. I joined up with these two a few years later, and we gigged quite a bit. I had tempo problems, I played too hard, I broke sticks, and I never remembered beginnings or endings to songs. I was a brand-new drummer, simple as that.

At a gig one night, the bass player said he had to let me go. I just wasn’t cutting it. I wasn’t too upset because I had told them as much myself on several occasions. I knew I was on borrowed time, but I had fun with it anyhow. They were good, and needed a solid drummer; I could definitely understand that.

So, I moved on.

I played with several original bands (meaning they wrote their own stuff) in the decade to follow. I recorded four albums, performed countless live shows (I even threw down a few in Hollywood), helped write music, and, of course, improved greatly.

The jam yesterday went well, and I had a really, really good time. The bass player who had originally fired me told me that now, I played far better than the guy who replaced me back then; I’m not gonna lie, that felt good. It felt real good. No longer do I have tempo issues, no longer to I “wonder” if this or that roll will fit into the given space (or if I can even do it at all), and no more do I play so hard I crack two sticks per set.

I’m a drummer now.

Anyhow, this blog post is largely useless other than providing me a place to tell you all what a good time I had on the drums yesterday. And, I guess, to say that if you are trying something that is extremely difficult, but you suck, stick with it: better times are definitely ahead.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

I Like to Feel Good

I woke up this morning to an instant message from a buddy with a YouTube URL. I clicked it, and the title of the video was, “Life Vest Inside - Kindness Boomerang - "One Day". I thought it odd that a beer-drinking buddy would send such a thing to me, but in the end I was glad he did.

It’s kind of a ‘pay it forward’ type video. It starts with a man helping a kid, who helps someone else, who helps another, and so on until the kindness comes full circle back to the original nice man.

And it was a breath of fresh air.

With all the violent and sexy videos on the Internet, it was really nice to see one with a positive message instead. When the video started, my first thought was that I was going to lose five minutes of my life to something horribly cutesy and disgustingly unrealistic. I trust my friend, however, and so I kept watching.

I’m real happy I did.

Those five short minutes turned an otherwise blasé, regular morning into a feel-good, happy one. I’m all for happiness. Honestly, I believe I might just watch that thing every morning. I’m sure it can’t hurt. It actually made me want to do something nice for someone, so the video did its job.

I’m not saying everyone should watch the video, or that everyone should do random nice things for people. I’m saying that the message was refreshing in a world where fat people falling down or teens getting drunk and fighting are some of the most popular videos on the Internet. Sometimes, a good, old-fashioned, positive something-or-other is just what we need in our day.

Anyway, here’s the link:

And here is the story behind the movement:

Copy and paste them into your browser and enjoy; it’s a well-done, neat video that made me think twice.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Why female cars?

So, I have always had an issue with grown men referring to their hobby cars as “she”. I honestly do not get the logic behind such a thing. My cars and trucks have always been thought of as male, and I learned that one of my buddies does the same thing. Why any adult male would want a female car is quite beyond me.

Take Stephen King’s “Christine”, for instance: Maybe if Arnie had named the car Bruce instead, it wouldn’t have killed him. Just saying. The whole idea of having a female machine drive me around makes me uncomfortable.

Check out the divorce rate, sometime. It proves beyond any doubt that relationships don’t work out, more times than not. But I have had friends for twenty years or more, and we are still very much friends to this day. Thinking of my cars and trucks as males, I think, guarantees a long-lasting friendship.

I have owned all kinds of cars: VWs, a ’68 Plymouth, a ’67 Fairlane, a ’76 Chevy ¾ ton, a sand rail, a station wagon, a Jeep Cherokee built for trails, an Impala, and even a boat. Not one of them has ever, for a single second, been female. I will never say things like, “She purrs like a kitten,” or, “Yea, my Jeep is hard to stop; she definitely gets the job done.” I think it’s borderline insanity to do so.

Cars that we enjoy and count on are our friends, not our lovers. If you feel sexually toward your vehicles, I recommend professional help. Also, I want video; I’m morbidly curious as to how that would work. As for me, I’ll keep calling my cars “friends”, and keep counting on them, year after year.

Why do you think it’s universally accepted that our cars are females? If you think about it long enough, it begins to make no sense whatsoever, at least for me. If I’m off-road in my Cherokee, the last thing I’m saying is, “C’mon, girl, you got this hill.” Ew. I hated even typing that.