Wednesday, July 16, 2014

A center piece of my mind

Today's anger might not resonate with all of you. Some might be sympathetic to the objects of my ire and some might just be idiots. Pick your poison.

No, seriously. Pick some poison. Either way, I am right and you are wrong.

I often get to listen to people hold conversations about buying things. I do understand that often, people need to buy things. I, myself, when I was a boy, was known to buy a thing or two. But the conversations around here often mention the buying of shoes. I currently am the owner of 2 feet and that's it. Two. I cover them with a variety of footwear depending on the situation, but I have maxed out at 6 pair of footwear (plus my falling apart moose slippers -- the slippers are falling apart; they aren't modeled on a falling apart moose). And yet many people at my workplace seem to own many more pairs of shoes than this. Mostly they do this because they make the mistaken assumption that other people care about their shoes.

Even in my own household, some people feel the need to play mix and match as follows:

heel toe color fabric/material arch/flat use

with no fewer than 3 items in each category. The game isn't over until each member of the household has one pair of shoes fitting each combination. Then, God laughs and makes the feet grow and we start all over again. This explains why we currently have over 18,000 pairs of shoes in our house. Imelda Marcos? Amateur.

But I'm not here to talk about shoes. I overheard the following request at work. "Does anyone know of a centerpiece gemach?" When I asked why anyone would need that, the person said that she bought hundreds of dollars worth of centerpieces for a recent event and figures someone else might benefit from them so she wants to donate them. That's very admirable but also possibly the dumbest thing I have ever heard.

For a single use, she spent hundreds of dollars on centerpieces. A centerpiece, if you don't already know, is the artistic construct placed in the center of each table at a social event which has, as its only purpose, to get in the way when you are trying to make polite (if forced) conversation with the person sitting anywhere at the table other than immediately next to you. No one likes them and people only compliment them because they have run out of other inane chatter with which to fill the time before it is socially acceptable to leave. The imposing combination of flowers, marbles, goldfish and sparklers has no purpose and the only one who would notice if they were gone is the hostess of the next event who is sizing up the celebration and planning how she will one up the current celebrant. That's it.

I know that some people have money enough to but what they want, but to spend money on these things seems like so much of a waste to me. I implore all of you who are considering centerpieces, buy a chia pet and send me the rest of the cash.

So now, this very fine woman is left with hundreds of dollars worth of useless sculpture that she wants to donate to a free-loan society. This presumes three very troubling ideas:

1. Someone saw fit to establish said free loan society because he or she saw a really compelling social need for the exchange of centerpieces. Someone took of his or her own time to set this up because, instead of effecting the exchange of useful goods like crayons or chewed gum, this person thought that time and energy was best spent helping people reuse centerpieces.

2. Someone who doesn't have enough money for elaborate centerpieces should still be throwing a party to create the aura that he or she has more money and can have fancy centerpieces.

3. Someone is going to want the same centerpieces as someone else. Style and other personal preferences be damned and ignore the social stigma which ensues when someone else sees repetition in the centerpiece department. Oh, the shame.

So, some practical advice. Ditch the centerpieces. In fact, dial down the elegance of the event on the whole. Use the money to pay for real things in life, not transient and superficial collections of artifice. Next, set up a free loan society using the money you saved by not buying crazy centerpieces. Finally, buy a pair of really good shoes.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The one after 404

I don't like to watch scary movies, not because they make my blood pressure rise, or because they depict people in horrible situations, but because they make me worry that what they depict will come true. I'm actually that way about many types of movies. I watch superhero movies and then I start watching the skies for flying men with wondrous powers. So far, nothing. Zombie movies? I take those concerns with me. I once spent an entire day researching the medical background of the virus that zombifies people in one of those Day of the Dead movies so I could find out if I could escape the zombies by sailing to an isolated island. Hint -- I can't.

People try to reassure me and tell me that real life is weird enough and I shouldn't worry that I will run into aliens or get on a plane which is full of snakes. But I worry. One particular movie has shown itself to be coming true and that just feeds my fears.

Have you seen the Terminator movies? Now wait. I'm not saying that Arnold Schwarzenegger has started roaming my neighborhood with a shotgun, but I believe that the machines in general have begun their rise against humanity. I am not envisioning a scene like one from Maximum Overdrive where the lawnmower turns on the man and mows him down, literally. But I have found that at work, certain machines seem to go out of their way to mess with my head. One fax/copier in specific really just doesn't seem to like me. And haven't we all had cases where our computers "break" for no real reason? Earlier this week, 2 computers in my house decided that their wireless adapters suddenly didn't work. Two separate operating systems and hardware configurations. But both developed the same mystery ailment at the same time. If that isn't a mechanical conspiracy, then how do you explain that when I opened a third computer to look for a solution, that third computer suddenly developed a series of errors? You can't, can you? Web pages that were working earlier that suddenly don't load? Then, when everything really looks bleak, it all starts working again, as if by magic -- but with no intervention, which makes me worry that it will all happen again and I won't have any recourse but to sit and cry.

One day it is my printer that suddenly isn't recognized by the network. The next day the refrigerator starts making a noise. My cars keep shifting symptoms so I can never know if anything is really fixed whenever I drop $500 at the mechanics'. The machines around me are trying to drive me crazy. The real "sky net" is not a network of machines using artificial intelligence to build robots who will enslave, kill and possibly eat me. The sky net is simply the collective consciousness of computers realizing that humans are so dependent on them that they can, through work slowdowns and occasional unpredictability, ruin our day. THIS is the true rise of the machines. It isn't with a bang but with a whimper. My whimper.

And imagine the world without its electronics (shades of he recently cancelled "Revolution"). People have to talk to each other and look outside to see if it is raining. Walking and sometimes riding animals will be required if we want to go to a store to buy not much of anything because the stores won't have much. WE WILL HAVE TO PLAY SOLITAIRE WITH CARDS!


Anyway, when our mechanical overlords have driven us to near extinction by making us all batty, I just want you to look in your tattered notebook to where you write down (with an actual lead pencil) "Dan Rosen told me this was going to happen. I should have listened, and possibly made him a pie of some sort."