Wednesday, February 21, 2018

RUBIK'S CUBE

Does anyone remember the 1980's instrument of torture known as Rubik's Cube? It was invented by a Hungarian guy (guess his name!) who created a revolution in toys and games. His creation is a 3x3x3 cube with 54 individual mini-cubes in 6 different colors on its 9 faces. The trick is to scramble this 3-D puzzle and figure out a way to, well, unscramble it. This is no easy task and, to that end, numerous volumes of text have been dedicated to The Cube's solution...or I should say "solutions", as there are many.

Sometime in December of 2017, when establishing my goals for the current year, I decided that learning to solve Rubik's Cube was a noble task that I should undertake. Toward that end, I would solve The Cube by December of 2018.

Much as I learned how to properly unplug a toilet or stuff a pill down a dog's mouth, I went to that veritable fountain of knowledge known as YouTube for direction. Honestly, most of The Cube instructions on YouTube, while being deadly accurate, are done by experienced, high-speed "cubers" who rip through instructions at breakneck speed. Little do they know that their simple method is not-so-simple to the uninitiated. Thankfully there was one source of instruction which I found to be most enlightening. It was from a man named Noah Richardson who produces nicely done, well thought-out instructional Cube videos. His instructions, combined with several other sources, were instrumental in getting me through eight weeks of mental torture. At the end of that time period I was able to complete The Cube albeit with the occasional use of a cheat sheet.

The next goal was to be able to complete the entire solution without the use of supplemental aids. Said task was completed, believe it or not, in Mexico. Yes, while lying on a chaise lounge in 80 degree sunny weather, Piña Colada in hand, there I was - working by trial and lots of error through the elusive solving of The Cube. And, by some strange miracle, I had it nailed by the end of our 10-day vacation. Truthfully, there's nothing about solving The Cube that requires a degree from Cal Tech - just a lot of time, patience and many Piña Coladas.

For many cubers, the next goal after learning to complete the task is to work on improving one's time. As for me, I'm happy just to be able to finish it without a cheat sheet. And besides, what's the rush?

"José, another Piña Colada, por favor."

Readers, enjoy your day.

Tuesday, February 20, 2018

CHANNEL 858

Yesterday, in my never-ending search for something wholesome, educational and stimulating, I turned on the TV. Knowing that I was looking through a veritable pile of rubbish in search of a diamond, I flipped past the weight loss channels, the botox channels, religious offerings, the Hee Haw Marathon, Kardashian TV, a ridiculous one called "Is Your Colon Happy?", and lastly, news channels of questionable virtue. Starting at channel 2 and ending up in the 800's I found nothing that would suit my immediate entertainment needs. With sore fingers due to remote control fatigue I finally came upon something that, if not appealing, was certainly unique.

There it was.

On channel 858 in the music section of the DirecTV guide.

Christmas music. Not just seasonal Christmas music, but Christmas music played 365 days of the year, 24/7.

Yes, folks, you'll be glad to know that you can tune in to DirecTV channel 858 and enjoy the madcap adventures of Frosty the Snowman in the middle of the summer. Honestly, that may not be such a bad thing. Someone living in Phoenix on July 15th peering at a thermometer reading 117 degrees may welcome the sounds of "hippity-hop-hop, hippity-hop-hop, look at Frosty go".

To that I say bravo to the good folks at DirecTV for bringing much needed cool thoughts to those in need during the sometimes brutally hot summer.

As for me, I'll skip back to another more sensible offering.

Now, what was the number of that "Hee Haw Marathon" channel?

Readers, enjoy your day.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018

A RUMOR

You heard it here first: LeBron James will join the Bolshoi Ballet when he retires from basketball.

Ridiculous? Certainly.

While Mr. James is certainly one of the greatest basketball players of all time, the thought of his performing for the Bolshoi is beyond the realm of realistic possibilities. But there are those who may argue differently, citing his rhythmic movements on the basketball court matching well with the graceful movements of a ballet dancer. Others may cite LeBron James' hard work and dedication; in other words, if he says he will do it (by gosh) he will do it! After all, if he can be a great athlete, he can certainly be a great ballet dancer. And his appeal! People would flock to see this famous star performing for the Bolshoi.

The possibilities are endless, say those who are less skeptical than I.

While I have the utmost respect for LeBron James, in a nutshell, he is not well-suited to be a member of the Bolshoi Ballet.

Similar to Mr. James' joining the Bolshoi, there is a veritable gaggle of popular culture, non-political celebrities rumored to be lining up at the gates of the White House hoping to be elected to the Presidency in 2020. The rumored list includes, but is not limited to, Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Tom Hanks, Mark Cuban, Oprah Winfrey and (maybe) one or more of the Kardashian sisters.

Did I leave anyone out? Probably.

Out of all these names, dear readers, I ask you to pick out the one that you feel will be the most successful.

As for me, I've made up my mind. I feel strongly that LeBron James would achieve greater success in the Bolshoi Ballet than any of the others would as U.S. President.

AFTERWORD: Truthfully, LeBron James has no intention of joining the Bolshoi Ballet. (At least at this point in time.)

Readers, enjoy your day.

Saturday, January 6, 2018

PROBLEMS

Aging baby boomers like myself are constantly bombarded with ads on TV, radio and direct mail regarding problems that we're "supposed" to be experiencing. Among these is Shingles. Admittedly, Shingles (it rhymes with Pringles) can be a miserable condition. That said, I've checked out getting the shot that will prevent the onset of this uncomfortable condition. My curiosity about said inoculation was driven by the always credible Terry Bradshaw's TV ads. Designed to scare the crap out of you, pictures of Shingles sufferers are shown in graphic detail and in full color. Do these scare ads work? I can't speak for others but, because of the sales pitch of Mr. Bradshaw, I ran to my local pharmacy to get more information about the shot. Truthfully, I was only interested in the cost, which I discovered is a whopping $300.

Now I know the meaning of "Shingles sufferers"... they're broke after getting the shot.

But I'm not here to bore both of my readers with tales of personal health care financial suffering. I'd rather bore you with something that really bugs me.

There is considerable advertising directed at men my age regarding "problems in the bedroom". Tune to any golf match, there they are. Tune to any men's do-it-yourself shows, there they are. Even re-runs of Andy Griffith are not immune to the onslaught of ads about this highly personal problem.

Stepping outside of my usual mind-my-own-business demeanor, I did a survey of my male friends.

The findings were astonishing. I was unable to find a single case of bedroom problems among men my age and even among much older men. In short, we have no need for the products that are being sold to address "bedroom problems".

To the advertisers I say "take your sales pitch elsewhere".

The truth is that men my age have no bedroom problems - we sleep just fine.

Readers, enjoy your day.

Monday, December 25, 2017

A PERFECT CHRISTMAS

The movie "White Christmas" is one of my faves. In it, Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye et al sing and dance their way into our hearts with the ultimate goal (spoiler alert) of saving the day for their former WW2 commanding officer who now owns an inn in Vermont and there are no guests because there's no snow on the ground.

Whew.

One scene from the movie is designed to capture our hearts and turn our attitudes toward the concept of snow from negative ones ("jeez I'm sure sick of shoveling this crap") to positive ones ("snow, snow, beautiful snow").

We in the Pacific Northwest are more used to a "wet Christmas" than a "white Christmas"; rain being the norm for this time of year. Thus, it was a great surprise to wake up to three inches of fresh snow on Christmas Day.

We took our wonderful dog for a walk in the snow. All the way we were greeted by people outdoors enjoying a beautiful white Christmas. It was a scene straight out of Currier and Ives - kids throwing snowballs, building snowmen, adults going for a walk.

Until now, I could not imagine a more perfect Christmas.

Then, as I tuned in to this afternoon's football game covered by NBC, I saw that Cris Collinsworth is NOT announcing the game.

Like I said, I cannot imagine a more perfect Christmas.

Readers, enjoy your Christmas day.

Friday, December 8, 2017

DOG RACING/NFL

Some years ago I was an enthusiastic fan of greyhound dog racing. In a nutshell, if horse racing is the "sport of kings", dog racing is the "sport of slobs". Yes, readers, dog racing people are my kind of folks - hot dog in one hand, beer in the other and daily race lineups tucked in their armpits. These folks have an enthusiasm for the spectacle of dog racing which puts that of the Kentucky Derby to shame. Admittedly, dog racing fans lack the elegance of the horse racing crowd as there is nary a showy hat or a mint julep drink to be seen. Rather, the scene is more along the lines of John Deere hats worn backwards and 24-ounce plastic cups of Pabst Blue Ribbon.

My enthusiasm for dog racing was brought to a sudden halt one memorable August night. In one of the races, the pack of dogs was racing speedily toward the finish line cheered on by the beer-soaked crowd of ticket holders. There was an unfortunate pileup just after the finish line from which most of the animals escaped unscathed. There was one animal, however, which remained still long after the other dogs had wandered off to their respective handlers. A wheeled cart was brought out to tend to the injured animal and when the handler lifted the dog from the track it was plain to see that its body was lifeless. Unceremoniously, the deceased dog was placed on the cart and taken away.

The results of the race were posted on the tote board and there were shouts of enthusiasm from some of those in the crowd proclaiming the good fortunes of the lucky few who won some additional cash. Amidst the excitement of the winnings there was little attention paid to how the tote board described the deceased animal. It was listed as DNF - "did not finish." I pondered that for a long time and it accentuated the point that these animals were but economic assets to their owners. This particular animal had been given a new name.

It was DNF.

Along with the animal in question, my interest in greyhound dog racing died that August evening.

Fast forwarding to last Monday night. I was watching a football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cincinnati Bengals. A Steelers linebacker, Ryan Shazier, sustained what appeared to be a serious back injury. Much like the dog racing incident, a cart was wheeled out onto the field and he was taken away.

The game resumed.

The announcers and commentators were quick to point out that this is "part of the game" and we should all send "thoughts and prayers" for the injured player. Later on, the same comments flooded the lines of the many sports talk shows in between the comments about the fantastic game and the good, aggressive play of both teams. Three days later there was a minor mention on the sports page as to the fate of the young man who sustained the back injury. In short, it was a severe injury.

Like many NFL players who get carried off the field in a cart, this player's career could be over. But, from the team owner's perspective, there are backup players to take his place. After all, the team must look forward, not backward. Because these things, injuries and all, are part of the game.

And the injured player's future? The team owner may quietly rename him while importantly keeping the man in his thoughts and prayers. He will now be privately known as DNF.

Readers, enjoy your day.

Monday, August 21, 2017

RADIO SHACK

A piece of America is being lost. In case you've not heard, Radio Shack is closing down many of its stores. Will all of them close? That remains to be seen.

Always considered the doormat of electronics among high-end stereo freaks for its schlocky stereo equipment, Radio Shack has survived these many years by being the sole provider of electric "stuff". (I call it that because I don't know the names of any of the little do-dads that they sell.)

But, I (and you) don't have to know these names because the folks at Radio Shack DO know them.

When you walk into a Radio Shack you are immediately sized up by the workers there. For instance, when I walked in they likely nicknamed me "the guy who doesn't know shit about electronics".

When I'd approach a Radio Shack employee I would confirm to them their suspicions by saying "hi, I'm Mark and I don't know shit about electronics". The one I'm speaking to would flash an all-knowing grin to his partner, communicating an unspoken code known only to electronics geeks which says "yup, here's another one".

The next challenge is for the electronics moron (me) to describe what it is I need. This is always frustrating for both parties and likely takes up most of the time of a Radio Shack employee. I can almost hear the conversation when a Radio Shack employee comes home to his wife at the end of the day. "Hi, dear. What did you do today?" "I listened to idiots who knew nothing about electronics describing what they wanted in incoherent sentences."

Ultimately, through something resembling osmosis, the needs of electronics numb skulls are figured out by the always patient Radio Shack employees.

Thus it was with a high degree of sadness that I found out that our local Radio Shack is closing. I went there because I needed a small electronic device that emits a high-pitched warning. Why Radio Shack? Because folks on the internet have unanimously said that "Radio Shack has them".

The sign on the door said it all. I don't remember what the specific words were because the tears streaming down my face blinded me to most of the letters.

"No more electrical do-dads" was the ultimate meaning of the sign on the door.

An era has passed. There will never be another Radio Shack.

I miss them.

Terribly.

Readers, enjoy your day.