Saturday, July 31, 2010

The Curmudgeonly Tweeter

I have friends.  You might be surprised at that since I can be downright surly on occasion.  Maybe most occasions.  I have always wanted to be known as curmudgeonly, but curmudgeonly takes work.  Truly lazy curmudgeons are rare, so I may have to choose.

One friend writes wonderfully sophisticated stuff for Young Adults, along with a wonderfully creative creative blog she calls Harley May - because that's who she is.  She found a book she likes - follow the link and read the review - which has inspired a contest in which followers are to recreate scenes from the book.  Enclosed is Harley May's own recreation of one scene in which someone is driving a nail through a body part.  That's what we curmudgeons like to see.  Nails.  And body parts.  Especially body parts.

Anyway, I am telling you these things so you will know that even curmudgeons have a heart.

Harley May wants me to get on Twitter and engage in social networking. Does that sound curmudgeonly?  Damn right it doesn't.  (Curmudgeons say "damn" a lot.  It certainly makes me feel better.)  No self-respecting curmudgeon would stoop to tweeting.  Tweeting makes me irascible.


Friday, July 30, 2010

David Slays A-B

In a victory for all great beer lovers - - no, that's not right.


In a victory for all lovers of great beers, some uber-court in Europe has finally, after 14 years, decided that Anheuser Busch, late of these United States and now of Everywhere, cannot call its product "Budweiser" in the European Union.  Including Germany.  Damn straight.

Budejovicky Budvar (roughly translated "Budweiser Budvar") has been making a great pilsener beer in Czechoslovakia since the people of Pilsen started making the stuff.

Budvar's brew is literally "Beer of the Budweis region" of Czech-land.  Last time I looked at Mapquest, St. Louis, where A-B used to call home, and Everywhere (except I suppose Antarctica), where Inbev calls home, were not located in the Budweis.

Imagine some future A-B/Inbev marching into Tampa Bay in the year 2610 wanting to sell some two-bit knockoff of the beer that will be made forever by the REAL Cigar City Brewing and wanting to call its pale imitation "Cigar City Beer."  Maybe a nice "Humidor Light" (only 35 calories).

Anyway, it looks like the war is over and the good guys won.  Want to bet that A-B/Inbev is loading a fresh cannon?


Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The Girls of My Dreams

When I was young - younger, I mean - I dreamed of girls.  Quite a lot actually.  As I became older - not older than now, but older than younger - I dreamed of women.  I felt this a sign of maturity and hormonal well-being.  God's plan in action, at least for us heterosexuals.

So I came to be even older, albeit younger than now - I mean "even younger than now," of course - and I dreamed again of girls.  Well-being continued its hormonally eutrophic meander, for I knew then I had become a dirty old man.  I liked that.  "Dirty old man" has become a term of endear-
ment, of sorts, among the objects of my dreams.  They told me that.  The "old" part of "dirty old man" is surely hyper-
bole, and the term commonly applies, less endearingly no doubt, to 30-somethings.  Among more mature males, dirty-old-mannism is a sign of enduring virility.  Last night I dreamed I was shopping for a file cabinet.

I was unprepared for file cabinets and, in one of those out-of-dream experiences, it seemed like I had better things to dream about than file cabinets.  In truth, I don't even need a file cabinet.  I just emptied the one I have - quite triumphantly I might add - so my dream was no mere artifact of an unresolved to-do list.

Perplexed, I chased the question through sketchy dream-venues.  We - I don't know who "we" are, but I am not alone - anyway, we break into that classroom where I sit perpetually unprepared for a final exam in a course I forgot I signed up for - usually Fourier Analysis or some equally opaque topic.  Then we swoop and soar though that flying place of mine, waiting for the inevitable moment when I remember I don't know how to fly.  File cabinets, indeed.  Where the hell are the girls?

Eventually, we come to that lonely stretch of road where I park the car and get out to walk, surprised yet again to find myself stark naked.  As always, the deserted road morphs into a downtown sidewalk on a busy afternoon.  As always, I stroll whistling back to my car, hoping no one notices.  No file cabinet out here.  I don't know where my shadowy companion went.  Embarrassed to be seen with me, I suppose.

I'm not going to tell you whether I ever found the girls of my dreams; some things should remain untold.  But I have a nice file cabinet for sale if you need one, practically unused - it's only been dreamed about once.


Sunday, July 18, 2010

Plumbing the Depths

On Thursday a VERY IMPORTANT PIPE broke under our house. OK, under our trailer. I called a plumber, who came and had the grace to look sheepish when he said, "I'm not crawling under there. Do you know what's under there?"

Well, yeah. It's the stuff that came out of the VERY IMPORTANT PIPE. And you're a plumber - I could tell when you bent over to look under the - uh - house. Aren't you supposed to deal with this - uh - stuff for a living?

So I hired a different guy to clean up the stuff under the house - let's call him Guy 2, and we won't mention Guy 1 again - and Guy 2 discovered that there is lots of other unmentionable stuff going on under there – more, that is, than just whatever came out of the VERY IMPORTANT PIPE. It's ugly down there, or so they tell me.

Guy 2 made sense, so I agreed to pay him a lot of money to make all of the stuff go away, permanently. Or as close to permanently as I care about. "How old are you now?" he asked.

Guy 2 also said he couldn’t really fix the problem until I hired a plumber to fix the pipe that was producing the stuff. You get the Catch 22 aspect of this story, do you not?

So I hired Guy 3 to fix the VERY IMPORTANT PIPE, which is where we started. I didn't tell him about the stuff. He’s a plumber; let him deal with it. He promises to come Monday morning, which is now tomorrow (unless this article takes longer to write than I expect).

Thursday to Monday was longer than I was willing to go without peeing except against a tree. Not to mention the Lady Who Would Not Be Caught Dead.  So we relocated to the Sunburst Inn, a lovely little beachfront place down the coast a bit. I tried to get the Displaced Persons’ Rate, but it was the weekend, and the oil crisis has not, apparently, driven prices down as far as the newspaper would have you believe.

But the Sunburst is nice, and it fronts on the oil-free Gulf of Mexico. It is easy to forget just how gorgeous the beaches are on the Gulf.

This story has a point – stay with me here.

So, we’re sitting on the beach last night – Saturday – and it’s 82 degrees and balmy, and the Gulf and the moon and Venus and Mars and some other celestial bodies are doing their hypnotically lovely thing. There is alcohol involved, of course, and in my alcohol-induced state of euphoria, I say to the Lady Who Would Not Be Caught Dead, “Isn’t this delightful?” The LWWNBCD just makes a rude digestive noise and goes on tuning me out.

Paradise is different things to different people.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

Electronic Wisdom

Driving across the Howard Frankland Bridge (translation for northerners: big bridge connecting Tampa to the civilized world to the west) this afternoon, my beloved M3 began talking to me. "Hey!  You're losing air in one of your tires."  The damn red light refused to go out.

"Crap," I thought.  I once had a full-on blow-out right there on that same Frankland Bridge, and it was not pretty.  You see, BMW, in its wisdom, decided that cars of this magnificence have no real need for spare tires, so they didn't put one in.  No doughnut, no nothing.  The low-profile tires are not run-flats but, in fact, they run pretty well flat. They ought to for $370+ a pop.  I apparently drove some distance before I decided that something felt a little out of whack back there.

Instead of a spare, BMW gives you a phone number and an instruction: "If you get a flat tire while you own this car, give us a call." Not-very-optimistically - the car is 7 years old - I called the number and - well, I be go-to-hell if they didn't show up lickety-split and flatbed me to the nearest BMW dealer, which proceeded to rake me over the financial coals something wicked.

Anyway, with that history in mind, I promptly pulled over this morning when the flashing light started whining about low air pressssure yet again.  I walked around the car.  I kicked the rubber while very large trucks whumped past.  Everything looked copacetic, so I climbed back in and continued to Tampa, warning light still flashing just out of my line of sight.  "Can you hear me NOW?  How about NOW?"

I'll get back to this later.  This article is really about the interface between driving a car and electronic messaging.  Not the txting-while-driving stuff we've heard too much about, but the mundane electronic whispers that dog you wherever you travel, generally misinforming you about the state of the universe.

Here's one now: Florida has erected electronic billboards all over the place flashing this urgent message:
Bearss Avenue 2 Miles
Travel Time under 5 minutes
This particular sign appears on I-275, Tampa Bay's preeminent vehicular artery. It's a big sign, very high-tech, very goddamn expensive.  So it must be accurate.  My ass.  These ubiquitous signs invariably report that traffic is crawling when, in fact, it's blasting through at something north of 75 mph.  All right, 85.  It's an M3 - that's why I bought it.  Get over it.

Anyway, that's what I saw this morning - this was after the tire pressure monitor light incident -  a sunny day, no traffic, and I and everyone around me happily abusing the speed laws of the great State of Florida.  The freakin' sign said I would be lucky to average 24 mph.  (2 miles in 5 minutes is 24 mph, for the arithmetic-impaired).

In fact, no matter how freely- or fast-moving the traffic, these signs never tell you that traffic is moving more than 60 mph. Somebody paid a fortune for these signs - oh, wait! that was me - and their only function is to report that everything you see on the road around you is false.  I'm not sure this matters.  I'm just sayin'.

And another thing.  I have this swell GPS stuck to my dashboard, and I use it whether I need it or not.  (You do that - admit it.)  So, driving out of downtown Tampa this afternoon - this is after the tire pressure monitor nonsense - I punched in "Go Home."  Trouble is, I sort of know how to go home from downtown:  find I-275 and get on it.  Drive 20 miles south (it's really west); bingo - you're home.  But today the road signs to I-275 and the GPS on my dash came to blows.  And me, instead of following one or the other, I just did whatever I was told at each intersection.  Sign says go left to I-275, I turn left.  GPS says turn right in point-five miles, I turn right.

Another road sign:  uh-oh.  Now it  looks like I-275 is behind me. "Recalculating..."  And so on.  Folks, I am not the sort of guy who challenges authority.  Embarrassing but true.  I drove in circles for an - - um - - for far too long, obeying authority.  Nice town, Tampa.

I'm better now, thanks.

So the denouement is this - the tire was fine.  No nail, no leak, no nothing.  The TPM light was lying to me all along.  Just like the traffic signs on I-275.  I am disillusioned.  Again.


Wednesday, July 7, 2010

The Armadillo Trap

We have armadillos.  They're rooting around every night in what I jokingly refer to as my lawn, looking for grubs or spare change or God knows whatever else.  I thought armadillos were a Texas phenomenon, maybe named after the city.  But here they are in the Sunshine State, rooting.  I have been casting about for a solution.

The first thing I learned is that Florida has some disturbingly stringent laws against armadillo cruelty.  Now don't get me wrong, I'm all for that.  In fact, I was the first to applaud when they recently arrested some poor feller down here for siccing his Doberman on an armadillo.  Siccing is outlawed.  No matter: I only have cats, and they don't sic worth a damn.

Having once been sworn to uphold the law - an obligation that I think is binding only in Connecticut, by the way - l figured I would capture the little bastards in one of those Hav-A-Hart contraptions and haul them up to Tate's neighborhood in Odessa, where they could frolic and root in the relative wilds of north Tampa.  Let the free-range armadillos feast on John's grubs.  That's when I learned about the declaration.

The State of Florida has declared armadillos an "invasive species" - as if I didn't know that already from the snout-holes in my yard.  You might think that declaration helpful to my cause in that an officially-declared invasive species would be fair game for relentless extirpation.  But you would be wrong.  That extirpation theory applies only to Latinos.  Armadillos hail from Texas and are Americans like the rest of us.  Most of us.  (How did this get political?).  Anyway, like any government act, the armadillo declaration bears unintended consequences.

Here's my options under the law, and they are not good.  I am allowed to trap the armadillos, but after that it gets complicated.  There's only two things I can do with  armadillos in a cage.  One, I can open the door and let them go free, right where I just trapped them.  Or, two, I can kill them.  Humanely, of course.  What I may not do is move the armadillos to a more armadillo-friendly part of Florida. In other words, intrastate transportation of an armadillo is a punishable offense.  Why do they call it "Hav-A-Hart" when all you can do is free the little bastards or shoot them?

Wait up - I can't even shoot the armadillos because we live cheek-by-jowl here in Pinellas County, so shooting is generally reserved for indoor activities and the occasional Democrat (another invasive species, albeit undeclared).  And I can't sic the cats on them.  Moreover, the county animal control officers refuse to deal with armadillos, unless of course you sic something on one.

It's enough to make one contemplate civil disobedience.  Look out, John, you may be having some late-night visitors.