Tag: rant

Not to rant on cyclists, but…

Yesterday evening, I took the Little Man to the park and, as we always do, we walked there along the bike paths that go through Bluemont Park in Arlington. Most of the time, walking on the bike paths is no problem, the cyclists are exceptionally good at keeping an eye out for pedestrians and vice versa. They will shout, “On your left!” or ring a bell well in advance of their approach and all I have to do is lift an arm in acknowledgement to let them know I heard them. But last night was an exception.

The trails were busy with both bike and pedestrian traffic and on three separate occasions, I saw cyclists behaving badly. The first time, I saw a cyclist nearly crack up because he wasn’t looking where he was going. Instead, he’d turned his head to yell at a little girl, 8 or 9 years old I’d guess, who wasn’t wearing a helmet. Granted, this is a bad idea, but it is an equally bad idea to not look where you are going to yell at the little girl to wear a helmet. Wearing a helmet is good, but not looking where you are going (to say nothing of frightening a little girl you don’t know) is bad form and nearly cost this biker an injury.

Next, where the trail dips below Carlin Springs road, one biker had to slam on his brakes because there was a fairly large group of pedestrians walking (on the right, as they should) and other bikes coming the opposite direction. Slamming on the brakes is not so bad, although you’d think he would know better on that particular part of the trail. What was bad was his outburst, “Come on! Move out of the way!” which was completely uncalled for.

A short while later, there was a similar incident, this time with a woman riding a bike. She was coming up behind us as a jogger was passing to our left. She shouted, “On your left”, but still had to move over further than she’d have liked since the jogger was passing us. So she shouted again, “Move over! On your left!” and zipped by us. I take it she was annoyed that maybe we didn’t hear her, or that there was a jogger passing or both, but I noted that she had white ear buds in her ears so who knows what she could or couldn’t hear herself. And besides, it’s a multi-use trail and cyclists don’t own it. But last night they were acting like they did.

So I offer some simple advice that should keep everyone happy, a philosophy I borrow from Wil Wheaton:

Don’t be a dick!

Follow this rule, cyclists and pedestrians alike and we’ll all be happier.

The Oscars

I’m disappointed in the outcome of last night’s Academy Awards.  Perhaps part of the reason is that I saw only three of the pictures up for awards:

  1. Vicky Christina Barcelona
  2. The Dark Knight
  3. The Wrestler

Of the three movies, The Wrestler was far and away the standout of the batch, and Mickey Rourke’s performance in the movie was better than anything I’ve seen in a long time.  Vicky Christina Barcelona was the first Woody Allen movie that I didn’t like.  It’s not that I just didn’t like it.  I thought it was terribleThe Dark Knight while a fun movie, didn’t come close to what was capture by Batman Begins.  Yes, Heath Ledger made a good Joker, but I didn’t think it any better or worse than Jack Nicholson’s performance in the same role.  Of course, Jack is still alive and Heath is not and perhaps that made all the difference.

I didn’t see Slumdog Millionaire, but I’m not surprised it won as much as it did.  In a bad economy, people are looking for hopeful stories.  It was an underdog and had buzz and that is why it won.  The story it told is a very old one, and from what I’ve gleaned there was really nothing new that it added, except perhaps setting.  It’s touted as a story of triumph, but I mean, come on, we’re talking about winning a trivia game, right?  Rich or poor, no matter where you are in the world, if you have a trick memory, you can do it.

I was pulling for Mickey Rourke for Best Actor and Marisa Tomei for Best Supporting Actress.  What we got, with the possible exception of Sean Penn in Milk, was mediocrity.  I mean really, why bother anymore?  We got the same actors playing the same roles that we expect of them in the way we expect them to play.  Perhaps that’s what we call an award-winning performance these days, but I think we are setting the bar way too low.

Lead by example or not at all

I don’t care if you are a Republican, Democrat or something in between, if you are going to lead people, you have to lead by (good) example.  If you can’t do that, then you shouldn’t lead.  Period.  Not paying income tax is leading by poor example and it should automatically disqualify someone from serving as a leader in government.  There may be excuses, there may have been mistakes, it may be "complicated".  Regardless, it distracts from the business of the public and worse, it creates a bad example.  Finally, even if you make it through the confirmation process, you’ve got something hanging over your head, an example that can be pointed to by others to say, see here, you did it, and you got away with it.  Why not me?

It shouldn’t even be a question.  I appreciate folks like Governor Richardson and Nancy Killefer who bow out as soon as this issues arise, and thereby setting a good example of the right thing to do when you’ve done the wrong thing.

Fire alarms

The Fashion Centre at Pentagon City, atop which my office building sits, and into which the windows of my office look, seems to have fire alarms blaring several times a week.  Sometimes, there are signs up warning that they will be testing the fire alarm system.  Other times, it seems to happen randomly.  When it happens, I look out into the mall to watch people’s reaction.

Everyone ignores them.

Shoppers ignore them.  Children carted about in Bugaboos ignore them.  The security guards ignore them.

I’d like to point out that if there is ever an actual fire at the Fashion Centre at Pentagon City and the carnage is particularly high, investigators need look no further than this blog to understand "what went wrong".

For Pete’s sake, give the damn alarms a rest, or force people to evacuate.  Don’t train people to ignore alarms!

How to get ejected from Yankee Stadium

Did anyone else see this story?  This fellow got ejected from Yankee Stadium the other day for trying to use the bathroom during the playing of "God Bless America".  Apparently, the stadium has a little known rule that says that people must stay at their seats while the song is playing.  NYPD claims the guy was drunk and belligerent, but witnesses say he wasn’t.  The ACLU is involved.

I’m a lifelong Yankee fan but that rule is not only ridiculous, it’s moronic.  Yankee Stadium and Camden Yards seem to be the only two baseball stadiums that play "God Bless America" at the 7th inning stretch, instead of "Take Me Out To the Ballgame".  I hate the song.  Set aside the fact that it’s designed to instill one’s heart with patriotic fervor; the writing is terrible.  The entire song is one big cliche.  At Camden Yards, the announcer comes on and says, "Ladies and Gentlemen, please rise and help us honor our nation by singing God Bless America."

Honor our nation with a god-awful song?

I don’t think that most people realize that "God Bless America" is not our national anthem, it’s merely a (bad) song that someone wrote.  The fact that a guy wanted to get up and use the bathroom while the song was playing doesn’t represent unpatriotic behavior.  To treat God Bless America as if it were the Star-Spangled Banner is to dishonor the latter.  And as far as patriotism goes, I’d like to ask those self-righteous NYPD officers:  How many of you know all four verses of the Star Spangled Banner?

This was simply a dumb-ass move and I don’t see how the Yankees will get anything other than bad publicity from this.

TGI trans fats?

I’m about a day behind on things here because of my lack of Internet at home. Only a few more days of this to go. Things should be back to normal on Monday or Tuesday so bear with me.

Busy day at work yesterday.

On the moving front, I did a few more change of addresses, and some more packing last night. In particular, I got the telescope boxed up and the back room closet all packed up. Tonight is going to be a big night. Another bulk trash night, to say nothing of a whole bunch of stuff getting done around the house in preparation for the move on Saturday.

On the wedding front, called our travel agent today and paid the balance of our honeymoon trip. I owe Mom a list of people for the rehearsal dinner, and I owe he11o_sunshine information for the “info sheet” that is going into the invitations. There simply hasn’t been enough time in the day, but I’ll do my best to get it taken care of today.

Received the September issue of ASIMOV’S in the mail today. Kelly got the checks we ordered in her mail. vickyandnorm would like them: they are Disney checks.

Dad and I went for a walk around Greenbelt lake after work, and then after that, we headed over to TGI Friday’s for dinner. We had a nice dinner, and when it came time to order dessert, I glanced through the menu and immediately decided on their Oreo Chocolate Cake, which I’ve had before, and which I find delicious.

“I’ll have the Oreo Chocolate Cake,” I said to our waiter.

“We don’t serve that any more,” she said.

I was devastated. “Why not?”

“Because of trans-fats.” She didn’t really seem to grasp what this meant.

“Maybe you guys should remove it from the menu.”

“Yeah,” she said.

Dad ordered a Brownie Obsession. When our waiter returned with it, I asked her if I could speak to the manager. I told her it wasn’t about her, I was just fascinated by this trans-fats thing.

The manager came by a few minutes later, and as he described it, “This is a silly corporate thing. They are trying to make us [TGI Fridays] perceived to be health conscious, so we are removing all trans-fat products from our menus. Personally, I love the Oreo Chocolate Cake and think this whole thing is silly.”

“Why don’t they just have a section for low fat desserts and section for regular desserts?”

“I don’t know,” he said.

Later he came back and placed an amusing sticker over the Oreo Chocolate Cake on the menu: “Forced into early retirement”.

Nevertheless, the fact that a restaurant is making this kind of decision on my behalf bothers me. It bothers me for the same reason that soda machines being removed from schools bothers me. It presumes an unalterable lack of self-control on the general public. And it takes the decision out of the hands of a person that has self-control. What right does a restaurant have to determine what I can and can’t eat? What right do they have to determine what is and is not healthy for me? This seems to be a determination for me and my doctor; the restaurant should stay out of the equation.

Restaurants will always have limited menus, and therefore, narrow down our options for us. That’s understandable. But this is the first time I’ve heard of a narrowing down of options because of perception. While I understand that there are health concerns with some of these foods, but like anything, they should be treated with moderation, not banned. I think we have to question this, else what are we to expect next? People abuse alcohol in the same way they abuse food. Alcohol has been shown to have health risks when abused. Should restaurants start banning that too?

A view into the ridiculous

After work today, I had some errands to run. I gassed up the car. I vacuumed it’s interior. And I stopped at Rite Aid to pick up a few items. I needed a gallon of water. And shaving cream. And razor blades. Would you believe that razor blades at Rite Aid are now under lock and key? There they are on the shelve with all of the other stuff, but you can pull them off the shelf without getting a sales associate to unlock it for you first. (See picture).

First it was forcing people to go to the pharmacy counter to get pseudophedrine products because a tiny element of society was using those products to make meth-amphetamines. And now we need store supervision to buy razor blades? Is there an outbreak of shaving-razor assisted suicide that I am unaware of? Razor blades are already expensive ($20+ for an eight-pack). The price alone would make one think twice before buying one. But to keep them under lock and key?

Besides, what business is it of Rite Aid to protect ourselves from ourselves? To me that is the peak of the ridiculous.

Speak English, willya! (Ugh!)

I was annoyed the other night while waiting at my local sandwich shop for the club sandwich I’d ordered. There were some regulars there and a couple of people came in and ordered in Spanish. The cook at the sandwich shop spoke Spanish and so he translated for the cashier. Meanwhile, the “regulars” sitting at one of the tables were muttering, not quite under their breath:

“Learn English, willya. This ain’t Mexico. This here’s America!”

This pushed one of my buttons almost to the point where I spoke up. First of all, take your own advice, lady! I’m not sure how well “This ain’t Mexico” would stand up in a basic English grammar class.

Secondly, it seems to me that the people who complain most about people who don’t speak English (in their presence) are among the laziest people out there. They are the same people you’ll find entangled in all sorts of “get rich quick” schemes; the same people who’d use the slightest crack in the sidewalk to sue a neighbor; the same people who complain they don’t get paid enough for essentially sitting on their fat, lazy asses.

Take some personal responsibility and learn another freakin’ language, why don’tchya!.

The response to this is always, “Why should I, this is America? Everyone should speak English.” Well, maybe if you live in a version of America that I’m unaware of. We Americans are a lazy bunch. We’re some of the only people in the world who, generally, speak only one language. Foreign language training should be mandatory (the language itself doesn’t really matter). It makes us more worldly, it helps us to communicate better (and therefore seem more welcoming) and for crying out loud, it give you a better understanding of different cultures.

But maybe I shouldn’t expect much more when I feel increasingly more surrounded by lazy, under-educated, backwater rednecks.

A nation of cowards?

Yes, I am referring to our nation. Anyone who says that our freedoms are not shrinking daily is either deranged or so completely out of touch with reality that they might as well be deranged. It’s always the little things that bug me the most because they are insipid. When seemingly harmless activities are banned, you know big trouble is just around the corner.

Take for example, the ban on hugging at an Illinois middle school.

Yes, you read that right. A ban on hugging.

Why? Two reasons are given: (1) hug lines were forming outside hallways and students were late to class; (2) hugging students are sometimes too close to one another and it can be deemed inappropriate.

So it seems that we really are a nation of cowards, when something as innocuous as 6th graders hugging scares us so badly that we ban it. Consider what’s been banned from schools since I was in middle school: many schools have uniforms because teachers and parents are afraid of students whose clothing stands outs. Schools have banned baseball caps because they are afraid of gang affiliations. Schools have banned cell phone use because, like China and Myanmar, they are afraid of what might happen to students if they are influenced by the outside world. Some schools still ban books because they are afraid of what students might read. I say this without any hyperbole: schools will soon be banning thought.

There is a solution to all of this and that is to teach. Teach students about appropriate behavior and where to draw the line. Teach students about respect for others. Teach students why some books are deemed more risque than others. Teach students about sex and take the mystery away. Teach students about drugs and why they are bad. Teach, teach, teach. There is a reason why teaching is one of the noblest professions. Teachers who teach are brave.

But we live in a nation of cowards. Cowardly principals, cowardly school boards, cowardly parents, and yes, cowardly students.

And it damn near breaks my heart.