Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Good is good, God is God

So, on Sunday, E and I met with friends at their local church. We had tried churches before, but Christians can be very... angry. We don’t believe that religion and anger largely go together. Heck, we aren’t even real religious, but we like good people.

We’ve had a couple of *real* bad church experiences, and at least one other very good one (Mormon church in Utah – that was a great time!). Our friends said that this church was very laid back, everyone was welcome, even GAYS.

‘Nuff said. We would try it.

Our friends were correct: the church was a mixture of a ton of different people, from a tattooed black gentleman who looks like he gang-banged in a former life, to sweet old ladies, and everyone in between.

We were happy with that.

There was a good community feel there, and not an ounce of pressure. They were just nice people, which fit the bill most excellently. You don’t need to be a monk to know that hitting people, spitting on the sidewalk, or stealing is wrong; you just have to be a good person. Kudos to good people.

Also, the services start at ten A.M., which is just dandy for us. Sometimes, we stay out rather late on Saturdays, which makes getting up at six in the morning rather difficult, at best. We like ten in the morning. 

There are all denominations at this church, as well, from Mormons to Catholics to Methodists and more. I was personally raised Baptist, but attended a Methodist church time to time with my grandparents. To me, God is God. It’s all the same. I don’t plan on becoming a religious scholar and so the minor differences don’t mean a hoot to me, and never have.

Good is good, God is God. What’s the matter with just trying to be good with a group of other good people? Nothing, in my eyes. Nothing at all. 

We will go back to that church with our nice friends, and we will shake the hands of nice people. It’s nice. :)

Monday, May 28, 2012

The price of shoes!

Yesterday, E and I went out to get shoes because mine were a couple years old and falling apart. There are quite a few places to get them in this one single strip mall, so we figured we’d start at Target and work our way down.

Holy cow.

Target had a selection of about three pairs that were the style I like, which are just running shoes, and they were all ass-ugly. We didn’t even bother looking at prices because there was nothing there. So we picked up a few items and went down a few doors to a shoe shop.

Holy COW!

We went to the clearance section straight away because, well, that’s what we do. There was a pair there for NINETY dollars. I didn’t even look at what the original price was. Also, they were orange and black. Ew. Most the other clearance shoes were in the forty dollar range. FORTY BUCKS for clearance shoes?

I got to wondering what the heck regular shoes went for, so I headed over to the non-clearance section, and quickly found I shouldn’t have done that. Sixty bucks is the norm now, for any kind of shoe. Even sandal things! I was more than disgusted.

No, I don’t live in a bubble, and I realize that prices go up every year. But sixty bucks used to get you top of the line shoes that only a few kids in school had. Now they get you... shoes. I put almost every one of them on, too, and they were nothing to write home about. They were just shoes.

Then I erred further. I told E that I must, I simply must see what the hype was all about with the ninety-dollar pair and why in creation they could possibly cost much.

Okay, they were awesome shoes.

I mean awesome, too, not just better than average. It felt like I was walking on two miles of cotton balls. They were amazing. Literally. I was amazed. I liked them so much I kept the right one on for several minutes, walking around like a dumb ass with a “Well, would ya look at this!” expression on my face. I think I had my first ‘old’ moment in a department store. New-fangled technology, and all. 

I finally wrestled the shoe off my foot and we left, headed to the next shoe shop down the line. Same thing. Same shoes, same prices, same so-so quality. I’m not paying sixty bucks for shoes that don’t look or feel spectacular, sorry. They’d better take out the garbage, for that price.

In the end, we went to a place that I know for a fact sells cheap, quality shoes. I ended up getting nice athletic/running shoes for twenty-one dollars, and they’ll last me two years. I know this because my last pair were very similar, and the same name brand, and they lasted me two years. Decent, comfy, rugged shoes!

I guess if I were a baller and loaded with cash, $100 wouldn’t seem so much for something I’m going to step on all day. But seeing as I’m a working-class Joe, that isn’t happening. I think the most expensive pair of shoes I’ve ever owned were my red, white, and black Nikey Air Jordan Hi-Tops. That was in 1985 or so. I wore those shoes for years and years. I believe they were on sale for $35 down from $50, and that’s the only reason I got them. My family was all about $10 Keds.

Anyhow, there’s my rant for today. Until I’m making $50k a year or more, I won’t be spending $100 on shoes. No way.

Friday, May 25, 2012

New job is nice – Less time isn’t

So I’m still working out the best way to handle my new gig. It is a great job, but I’m finding there are tricks to doing it better. At first, I was logging in and doing my hours all at once, in a big block. I liked that; once I was off, I was off, and had the rest of the day to me. But now I’m finding that my productivity goes up substantially if I split the shifts.

I don’t like that so much.

I was working from about 8am to 1pm and then the rest of the day was mine. That’s what I’m talking about. But my response count was lower than they wanted, so I’m finding that logging in for three hours in the morning or early afternoon, then three more in the evening nets me many more. It just kind of eats into the time a bit more, even though it is technically the same amount – six hours.

I have stories to edit. I have blog posts to write. I have many projects waiting for me in the garage. I need more time. On top of that, I have to write and still work for various other places online doing the freelancing. It’s become quite the juggling act.

And now I’m in a band, and possibly two. I jammed with my old bass player’s new band the other day and they loved me and want me on board as their drummer.


That’s exactly what I need right now, is two musical projects. I’m also on a competitive Internet chess league, and scheduling game times has proven tight at best. I can do this, but I’m at maximum capacity; another gig of any sort and my house of cards will surely crumble. 

Once I get more up to speed at the new job I’m sure I’ll find bigger and better ways to get through it. For now, though, this train keeps on chooglin’. That’s what it does. It choogles. On and on.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Idiot Managers: You Know the Type

I have said it before and I’ll say it again: I’m so, so glad I work at home now.

In my experience, managers are complete drooling idiots. They bend rules when it suits them, but not when it suits the customer. They demand timeliness, cleanliness, responsibility and loads of effort, but only pay minimum wage. I have had many, many jobs, and very rarely does a manager know what the hell they are doing.

I know people. I’m a people guy. The majority of managers I have dealt with aren’t. They are bosses, not people lovers. And that’s fine, until these morons have to deal with the public. They drop the ball every time.

Once I worked at an auto-parts store. A guy came in who had bought an alternator for his old Ranchero earlier that day, before I signed on for my shift. He hadn’t realized until he’d already junked his old one that the new (see: refurbished) units don’t come with any hardware. He literally had no nuts/bolts to attach his wires to.

The poor man was greasy, he was tired and hot (SoCal summers get to be 110ยบ very easily), and he was frustrated beyond belief. Well, wouldn’t you be?

What did I do? I marched right back to the parts area, grabbed an alternator and yanked the hardware off of it. I then slipped them across the counter and told him to have a nice day.

The look on his face was priceless. Nobody is used to someone actually taking care of them: they are used to being given the runaround about store policy, how employees wish they could help further, how sorry they were they couldn’t do more. Not me. You need hardware, you get hardware. Didn’t hurt the place a bit.

Guy brought me back a six-pack of beer and said he was a customer for life.

That, friends and neighbors, is customer service. I didn’t steal, I didn’t bend the rules too badly, and I didn’t commit a cardinal sin. I helped a guy out who, in my eyes, was a total victim of penny-pinching moronic methods.

The management jumped all over me for that trick, and I mean pretty badly. Apparently, they weren’t really worried about customers being happy. In fact, I know they weren’t. In the end, it’s each man for himself no matter what kind of “teamwork” mentality they try to instill. 

Management? Idiots.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Bangles Show: Rocked

So Saturday night I was fortunate enough to see a free Bangles concert. What do you mean, who is that? Walk Like an Egyptian, Eternal Flame, and Hazy Shade of Winter. That’s who the Bangles are.

Anyhow, they were an all-girl rock/pop group from the ‘80s, an era I happen to adore. The tickets were free through KOST 103.5 FM and also at Casino Morongo, where the show was held. How could I say no?

Basically, I thought they kicked some ass. No, it wasn’t a Van Halen or Rage Against the Machine show, but the gals did a really bang-up job. They definitely ‘still got it’. We were amazed to see the drummer sing while playing, then get off the drums and play guitar and sing lead, and also play the stick thingies. Yes, that is the technical name. Thanks, though.

They sounded just like their albums of some thirty years ago. At first, having been involved in many bands over the years myself, I was watching them closely for mistakes. We do that. In no time, though, I was jamming, shaking my hips and singing along. That’s a sign of good artistry, right there; they made me forget. Kudos for that.

After the show, I went on to kick some ass of my own. I plopped down $30 at a blackjack table and in ten minutes walked away with $75: drinks were on me. The night was brilliantly charged with positive energy. Damn, I love nights like those.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Empty Chair on Amazon

Recently, the first story that I wrote and felt good about, The Empty Chair, became available on Amazon for Kindle. I’m not normally a great big fan of self-publishing, but I think it’s a great arena for short stories.

The first thing you’ll notice is the cool-looking cover. I know, I’d be jealous, too. I believe there are right and wrong ways to do things, and one of the wrong ways happens to be designing your own cover in a paint program and then splattering it all over the web.

I emailed her the story and had a cover the very next day. One minor tweak and I was good to go. Heck, I liked the cover so much it’s my avatar on many forums, and also my desktop image.

The story is about an aging chess grandmaster who isolates himself in a cabin to study for an upcoming match against an old rival. He soon finds that he’s in for more than just a chess competition when supernatural forces show themselves at the cabin.

No, it isn’t horror, not by a long shot. Rather, it’s the lighthearted tale of our grandmaster, Orren, and his daily routine at the cabin.

There just happens to be eerie stuff thrown in.

There are no chainsaws, no zombies, no flesh-eating wolves standing tall as Mack trucks. But there’s eeriness, oh yes. Just enough to keep you on this side of uncomfortable.

You don’t need to be a die-hard chess fan, either, to appreciate the story. While chess is the main theme, it isn’t the story itself. I fully believe that any reader, chess player or not, will be able to enjoy The Empty Chair. And heck, for only a dollar, who could pass it up? Secure your copy today and settle in for a read. You might be glad you did, and I know I would.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

RENT: Crafton Hills College

Last night, May 5th, 2012, I got to see the coolest show ever. The local community college, Crafton Hills, put on the best rendition of RENT in existence, short of seeing the actual Broadway performance. I was more than impressed; I was downright thrilled.

My girlfriend, Eliza, had worked very hard as stage manager over the last several months, and I was finally able to see why: Each and every character was nothing short of brilliant; each singer had a voice to die for; the costumes and stage and props were out of this world; I didn’t notice a single mistake; there were surprises, laughs, cries, and joy around every corner.

I’m not exaggerating in the slightest when I say that the show must have been one of the best college theater performances in the history of college theater performances. Two thumbs way up, and that’s only because I don’t have more thumbs. Seriously.

In fact, the only disappointing thing about the play is that it isn’t happening again. I would go next weekend, the one after, and the one after that to see such an awe-inspiring performance. It was a total steal at the ten-dollar entrance price. I would pay thirty to see it again.

My hat is off to those who worked so damned hard on such a fine thing. I wish bright futures for all involved. I have also had the pleasure to attend a couple social gatherings with the cast, and they are such cool people that my mind is permanently blown. Had I known any better, I’d have gotten into theater in college. You couldn’t ask for a more intriguing group to have a few beers with.

If life had a rewind button, I’d be sitting in that theater, waiting for the show to start, right now.

 I would.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Breastfeeding in Public

Okay, guys and gals, I’m going to talk a little bit about breastfeeding in public. Anyone who doesn’t think it’s cool should probably stop reading now, because I sure do.

There are far more terrible issues in the world than a woman feeding her child naturally, trust me on that. The same folks who’ll complain about seeing a woman breastfeeding her child in public will walk past a homeless man without throwing a dime to him. Gimmie a break. And yes, I know that’s a weak argument; live with it.

Women have kids. That shouldn’t be much of a news flash, but I figured I’d let everyone know in case they weren’t aware. Not only do they have them, but they have provisions to feed them naturally, through their breasts. What a great design! Another reason why breasts are win, all the way.

As long as the mother doesn’t take her shirt completely off and then breastfeed, I don’t see what the problem is with seeing it in public. You mean to tell me that some people would *really* rather a newborn went hungry so it spared their eyes a flash of titty? That’s beyond ridiculous and selfish; that’s downright evil.

Speaking as a thirty-something male, I’ve never had a problem with seeing breasts. I’m not sure why another man would, either. As for women, I utterly cannot think of a reason why it would offend them. I guess if certain individuals couldn’t have kids, hated kids, etc, watching a woman breastfeed could be a bit uncomfortable. Special cases aside, however, what in the world is the issue with it?

A child suckling on its mother’s breast isn’t offensive, but do you know what is? Here’s a list of everyday things you might see at the store:

1. Wannabe gang members sagging their pants well below their tushies. Guys, I’d much rather view a breast than a male ass. Seriously.

2. Old people peeing their adult diapers and stinking up an aisle. That’s pretty raunchy, but I don’t see an uprising against old people peeing.

3. Obese people wearing stretch pants. Breastfeeding is fine, but there really should be a ban on leotards for fat folks. Really.

4. A mom piling seventeen children out of a minivan that’s obviously on its last legs and riding on two donut spares. Oh, you haven’t seen that one? Sure you have, let’s not be coy.

5. Obese, hairy men in muscle shirts who let their man-boobs flop out the sides and have a tattoo on their calf that reads “Freedom”. Show me some female honkers any day over that guy’s anatomy. Please!

The list goes on and on, but I’m sure you get the gist. The next time you see a woman breastfeeding and turn up your nose, think about how *you* were fed as a baby, and relax a little; it’s totally natural and, dare I say, even beautiful.