Monday, April 30, 2007

T & L & SWBDR & TPOF storms

Last night as i lay in bed with the window open wide, listening the first spattering of rain outside on the patio mingling with Croftie's muted sleepy breathing, having just set down my copy of The Boy Detective Fails, already mulling over the next day's schedule what with all the organizing of shelves and displays i have to do and coming up with a 'flow-chart' for my non-existent website to be constructed in my dreamweaver class, i realized that what i was listening to were the inaugural few baby-steps of the first thunderstorm of the season.

And my pensive mood got the meteorologist in me got to thinking. Whenever i am reading online forecasts or predictions on the weather channel its always reads 'T-storms' or 'Strong T-storms.' For brevity's sake I think the designation is fine. As an accurate descriptor it misses the mark. As the first peel of thunder crinkled its opening measures into my ear before deepening, cracking into that lingering 'boom' noise that always concludes thunder like its own odd form of weather punctuation, i wondered, why focus on the thunder? Surely the noise itself isn't the defining factor of the 'T-storm,' right? I mean, the noise wouldn't even exist without the lightning part, its the electrical discharge that tears through the ether, physically ripping the air to produce the thunder sound, but few people go the whole 9 and refer to these phenomena as Thunder and Lightning Storms (and even there the thunder gets sentence priority). And I've never seen a news or web blurb, 'Warning: T & L Storms!' Its not the thunder that creates property damage or downs power lines, yet it is the thunder that has captured the imagination, its the thunder that has acquired the nomenclature and the mythology, 'God bowling with the Angels' explains away the sound but doesn't exactly take into consideration the brilliant flashes of light now does it?

But I suppose if we are going to include lightning in the name we might be opening the door for other, increasingly less necessary descriptors. Its a slippery slope from thunder storms to thunder and lightning storms to thunder and lightning and strong winds bringing drenching rain and the possibility of flooding storms.


Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Will (Power) and Testament

On Monday i decided to do a silly, crazy, unbelievably stupid thing. I decided to try and go a week without soda. It began as "Operation: Don't," seeing as my soda of choice is Mt Dew and their slogan is 'Do the Dew.' But I quickly realized that Dew is not the only carbonated beverage I subsist on. There was also Coke and its cousin Cherry Coke. There are Ginger Ale and various citrusy flavored delights. So I concluded I may as well go all the way. No half-assed self-imposed fasting for me.

You might be asking yourself, dear God, why on earth would anyone do this to themselves? I'm not God, but I'm glad you asked. For one, I've just been feeling a bit soft lately. And to tell you the truth, I drink an awful lot of soda. And its not very good for you. at all. Though I cannot live without Caffeine, and have since supplemented it through tea, I was getting too much of it. And don't get me started on High Fructose Corn Syrup. With a name like that you have to be unhealthy. Also, my stomach is not a champion stomach, no, it wouldn't even be in contention. It is not on life support or anything, but I need to take it easy on the poor bastard. And laying off the carbonated beverages is probably beneficial to its overall health. Seeing as I recall watching a video in chemistry class on how carpenters use coke to eat away at the grout beneath bathroom tiles so that they can get to the hardwood flooring beneath more easily. I'm pretty sure my stomach is not made of grout, but whatever it is made of, can't be fond of the bubbly.

So its been almost 3 days. And its not getting any easier. Monday was the worst, but I constantly want soda. This is now more a question of will power. And I've told enough people about this challenge that I would be slightly embarassed to fold early. Just a few minutes ago i was walking down a hallway that ended on a window into a classroom and framed beautifully in one tiny pane was the outline of a 20oz Mt Dew, sunlight pouring through its impossibly neon green contents, a color not found in nature but wondrous all the same. I thought briefly about shouldering open the door and stealing the bottle from whatever hapless student possessed it (and good taste). Soon I will be breaking in to nursing homes and selling loot on the street for cash to pay for my habit. Then they'll send me up the river and my baby will grow up without a daddy. That is if i was a father. I'm not. And with all the Mt dew I've drank over the years... I likely never will be.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Thermal Couple

i am so stuck on the Thermals. They are my band du jour, for all of April really. As has previously happened on albums like Wolf Parade's Apologies, or NMH's Aeroplane, my favorite song is constantly shifting. Right now it is "Power Doesn't Run On Nothing" mostly because of one of the latter verses:

"So let the sun fade/
Let the sun fade/
We'll still have light/
We'll burn even brighter/
We'll drain the well tunnel to hell/
And leave the earth's surface to the worthless and dirt."

the repetition of the 'ur' sounds on the last line is particularly neat-o.


Sunday, April 15, 2007

Hot Button

If the past week had a theme it would be 'Racial Sensitivity.'

The Imus debacle is well-known and doesn't warrant yet another discussion here. I could care less about an idiot's racial insensitivity or Media-World's racial over-sensitivity. I'm not quite sure the aforementioned event had anything to do with a pair of phone-calls my manager was forced to deal with during the past week, but the timing is coincidental at the very least.

This past Tuesday every employee at the store I work at was singled out and given a lecture. A lecture about customer service. More specifically, customer service of a racially charged nature. Recently, a young black woman called in to report that she had been mistreated while shopping, on three separate occassions no less, and had come to the conclusion these unpleasant experiences were racially motivated.

circumstance a) Customer uses a credit card to pay for her puchase. The clerk, a young white woman sees that the back of the credit card is not signed, and asks for ID. Our store is already going beyond the call of duty here. Credit Card law states that if the card is unsigned, we should refuse the purchase altogether. However, on the back of their card in place of a signature some people write in 'See I.D.' or purposely do not sign to encourage retailers to ask for indentification. This is means toward discouraging identity theft, an omnipresent danger. It is done for the customer's own good and is never a slight. When asked for her I.D. the young woman refused to comply, presumed the white cashier-girl was being racist by 'inferring' the card stolen. Customer paid with cash and left huffing and puffing.

circumstance b) Customer is purchasing books and the clerk, a young white man, engages her in conversation. Seeing what the customer is purchasing, Clerk suggests a few titles only to have the young woman explode with 'do you think I'd be interested in those books just because I'm Black?"

circumstance c) Customer is purchasing one book, a mass market paperback for less than $10. Customer pays for this with $100 bill. Our sister store has, as recently as two months ago, been burned by accepting a fake $100, which is easily prevented by holding the bill up to a light and revealing the water-mark. Clerk, a young white woman, does this, and the customer flies into a frenzy, claiming that this would not have been done if she was white.

Now I did not see any of these three circumstances directly, and can only infer that this woman was spoiling for a fight. My manager is seriously considering we stop checking IDs on unsigned cards or holding up $100 bills to find the watermark. And all because one person is so self-centered as to re-direct everything back at herself as a racially charged affront. The store cannot profit from these proposed changes.

And the week was not yet over.

On Thursday morning a colleague and i were listening to music, not quite out of the auditory range of browsing customers. My co-worker likes hip-hop, so i put on an album that just so happens to have some pretty horrible lyrics. Now I see certain 'aggressive' hip-hop as the musical equivalent of a horror film. Its certainly not for everyone, but its 'goal' or 'purpose' is to horrify and shouldn't be taken literally. half the time I don't even listen to the lyrics at all, and just hear particular beats. Perhaps this is irresponsible, and perhaps I've listened to the music so many times that the words 'no longer mean anything.' Yes, I'm a desensitized ugly american. Ugly or no, I seriously offended a young woman customer. She called later in the day to report she had been 'very uncomfortable' while shopping because of 'foul music.'

Of course i was an idiot to play something like this anywhere near a public place. It isn't for everyone. And the girl had every right to call in. And when my manager came back to tell us what happened, the dour man who rarely speaks above a whispered monotone, I was taken completely aback and blushed to the core of my being when he mumbled something about a customer being offended by music containing phrases like 'niggers fucking whores.' It was something I'd never imagined I'd ever hear come out of my boss' mouth. I never want to hear again. Now, the music in question is the same sort of stuff conservative news pundits are citing produce the phrases Imus was called out for using on air. The argument being, 'why, "they" call themselves this, the real problem lay in the cultural exploitation of the music corporations themselves, or the rappers in question, their hip-hop lifestyles, and so on and so forth.' First of all, using 'they' is never a good idea. Secondly, take a look at what is happening here. The responsibility is subtly shifted from individual to a certain section of the public sphere to society as a whole and thus any hope at effecting change is negated. because individuals can learn and change. It is much more difficult for a faceless and disparate society to do so.

The hard part of all this is just how muddled everything is. There are certainly some lessons to be learned, but by no means any cure-alls to the problems exposed. The charged atmosphere of race relations isn't going to fade away any time soon. And the media sure isn't helping matters. In the end I suppose the best we can do is just be ourselves. Hopefully enough of us are enlightened enough to not take everything so seriously. And yet at the same time understand other people's motivations and perceptions, know that everyone has a certain amount of cultural baggage, and treat everyone fairly. Here's hoping anyway.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Turnabout is... a Pain in the Ass

A few weeks back I lost a duck. I borrowed Croftie's umbrella because it was raining that morning, but on the return trip home nary a cloud was in the sky. The duck became a maroon accessory, an awkward one at that. It wouldn't fit in my man-purse, not with Anna K. So I carried her home... sort of. When I stopped to switch trains at Adams/Wabash, I saw the Brown-line I needed to catch pulling in right quick, forgot about my duck which i had set down on the seat next to me, and sprinted out of the car. Thing is I remembered my lost duck, but too late. And the evil part was, as I turned to re-enter the train I'd just left, doors closing before i could get there, I saw the person who had been seated across from me not only knew I'd left behind my umbrella, but had done nothing about it. No "Hey, Sir! You've forgotten your Duck!" No nothing. Instead a sheepish expression amounting to "I'm sorry i didn't speak up, I feel rather uncomfortable looking after you like a foster child, and have failed in my responsibilities as a human to treat others with kindness and respect." People, unlike water-fowl, are jerks.

Today I was jostling my way to Hyde Park on the #2 under similar circumstances. It was raining this morning but I had left our brand new Baby blue Duck umbrella at home, lest I lose it as well. Slightly damp in my seat I saw that a rather boorish young man in the back row was using the seat next to him as a umbrella stand, even though there were several people standing in the aisle. From time to time he would steady his umbrella from toppling over into the people in front of him. The bus struck a curb, causing many wide-eyed stares from us commuters, but Boorish guy never looked up from his paper and shouted, "Hey buddy! Learn (how) to drive!" Either from not paying attention, or through some sort of universal karma, his stop approached and he nearly missed it. I looked up from my Anna K in time to see him jump out the back door and rush off down the street. The doors closed, the bus sped on, and to my surprise i saw his umbrella still lay on the back seat.

The lessons from this are multifarious:
a) all ducks go to heaven.
b) it is inadvisable to carry an umbrella on public transportation
c) don't be boorish, or you might end up caught in the rain.
d) it is inadvisable to use public transportation even when not possessing an umbrella.
e) water-fowl should not be made into umbrellas, but are a delightful combination nonetheless.


Sunday, April 01, 2007

Unfrozen Caveman Pirate

everything has changed. Its like I'm Rip Van Winkle or Unfrozen Caveman Lawyer or something. One minute I have a firm grasp on everything, er, at least a few things, the next, I'm that old man who's staring at a computer like it was space-ship or a nuclear reactor. What's changed you ask?


Our bathroom has brand new tiling and walls freshly painted blue walls.
Spider-man is now 'Back in Black' and has tossed aside his red uni.
They no longer offer Snickers or cheez-its in the vending machines on the third floor.
Major league Baseball returns tonight.
I can't sit and read a novel. I just can't.
Lost no longer interests me.
Croftie keeps cooking delicious new dinners (and desserts!).
We're all suddenly adults here
it's, like, warm outside.

Oh what a world.