Saturday, November 27, 2010

Sometimes you get lucky.

It didn't happen, not this time. As we all know, appliances are engineered to fail at exactly one minute after midnight on the last day the warranty covers it. When my Sony TV went black recently, right at the end of the Dallas Cowboys game, I knew I was screwed with the warranty; it's just the way the world works.

Imagine my delight when, miracle of miracles, I discovered I had a whopping two weeks left on the coverage. Boy, did somebody screw up or what? At 9:01 the next morning I'm on the phone to the repair people. At the very least, I'm expecting a two week delay to order the part and an even longer wait to be scheduled for a house call. Keep in mind, the Big 12 game of the year between OSU and OU will be happening the next day, forcing me to watch on my emergency, minuscule, 17 incher. The conversation went like this:

Repair Guy: Sony huh? Went black on you? Probably lost the projection lamp.

Me: How long will it take to get the part?

Repair Guy: Oh we have those in stock.

Me: Really? Okay, how long before you can come out?

Repair Guy: Umm, let me look. How about today at 4?

Me. I think I love you.

Repair Guy: Sir?

The guy didn't show up at 4, he came at 2. Twenty minutes later I had big screen football.

There is a God.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Commercially Speaking

Are we agreed? Don’t we all hate commercials on TV? Maybe not all commercials. The techno kid for e-Trade still cracks me up. But for the most part, AAARGGGHHHH! For the record, I did the research for you and used my stop watch to time the number of minutes per hour of commercials and program content. On the average, 20 minutes, one third of every hour long program, is devoted to boring, loud, obnoxious, aggravating, frustrating, annoying, maddening infuriating, mind-numbing commercials.

And that’s not counting those cursed little pop-up promos that race across your screen during the actual show.

Wasn’t there something in the news recently about volume limitations on commercials? Have you noticed any difference? How about that all time favorite Keystone Chevrolet?


Now, commercials precede anything you want to look at the Internet. Click on a story line on the MSN homepage and watch a 30 second spot for whatever before you’re allowed to see the item. Outrageous. This is our lives they’re stealing from us people, our time on earth, minute by minute, wasted.

Yeah, yeah, the money on ads pays for the programming, I know. It’s just that I don’t want to deal with it. Better to go outside and watch a sunset I think, free too.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Keeping It Simple

The ice maker in the fridge has been dead for oh, two weeks now. It just sits there, in the cold and the darkness, doing absolutely nothing. At least once or twice in the past, it fixed itself, a miracle if there ever was one. But not this time. No more miracles.  I know, in an earlier post I had promised to smash the cursed device with a large hammer into tiny, tiny pieces with the theme from Apocalypse Now playing in the background, but there was an another delay in the delivery of the replacement. This time, of our choosing, not Whirlpool. The Missus claims she couldn't deal with a Friday Thanksgiving meal and refrigerator swapping on the same day.

In the meantime, there was that nagging little problem of no ice for the toddy, nothing for the evening spooker, no frozen cubes on which to splash a wee bit of bourbon as the sun goes down. Two options; buy it by the bag at ridiculous prices and then have to chip it apart into manageable chunks as needed or use ice trays. Ice trays, remember those? And wonder of wonder, we had three of them, probably saved as mementos of  our youth.

Fill em' up. Wait a while. ICE! No gears to jam, no valves to stick, no switches with dirty contacts, no thermocouples to fail, no heater element to quit, no nothing. Just dump the ice in the bucket, repeat. The simplicity was fascinating, calming in fact.  Nothing to worry about, nothing all, just let nature take its course.

Hello, Whirlpool? Stick your product where the sun don't shine. Who needs it?

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Hey Whirlpool, UP YOURS.

"Mr. Williams?"


"This is (mumbles) from the Whirlpool Corporation. That refrigerator you ordered, the one that we promised to deliver on Friday? Well, there's a little problem."

"Why am I not surprised?"

"Sir, that refrigerator will not be available for delivery until Nov. 26."

"Is that the same November 26 that's the day after Thanksgiving, the one where every kitchen in the freakin' United States of America uses their refrigerator the most?"

"Uh,yes sir. That is our first available date."

"What happened to my previous available date, the day after tomorrow?"

"Sir, that date is no longer available for the model you purchased."

"I have an idea. One of the stores I shopped at had three of those models in their warehouse. Go get one of theirs and then replace it at the first available date."

"Mr. Williams, I'm sorry but we can't do that."

"Lady you work for a huge company. I think you folks are big enough to do about anything you want to."


"Tell  you what, why don't the Missus and I bring our family over to your house for Thanksgiving dinner? Assuming you have space available of course."

"Thank you for buying Whirlpool Mr. Williams. Goodbye."

Sunday, November 14, 2010

No, not again!

For the umpteenth time, the refrigerator ice maker here at the humble abode has failed to produce. Stopped, no workee. How can this be? It's not like it's a computer with nearly unlimited abilities to perform requests upon demand. No, it has one stinkin' job, one simple task, to make little chunks of frozen water, spit them out, repeat. That's it. Yet, this damn thing has had more problems than the NASA space shuttles.

To review:  I've cleaned the water valve, burnished the relay contacts, douched the water line, cussed it, bitch slapped it, pleaded with it, asked forgiveness, made promises (but didn't keep) and the stupid thing still quits on me. Not only that, but it quits at the most critical time of the week, the Sunday Morning Bloody Mary time. And after all I've done for it too. It's soooo hard to find good help these days.

For the record, the ice maker is being replaced, fired, dishonorably discharged. In fact, when the new one arrives, some time this week, I'm planning on a simple but appropriate ceremony whereupon I take the largest hammer I can find in the tool box and beat that son of a bitch into pieces too small to be seen by the naked eye. There will be no service afterward.

Excuse me while I go look for some old fashioned ice trays.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Don't Take Your Guns to Town

The subject over lunch with friends was how we would react if our home was invaded. Assume you have a gun (everybody in Oklahoma has a gun, usually several) and you're awakened by a noise, the crash of glass or the creak of a door. OMG. Someone's in our house! Calling 911 is always a good idea of course or hitting the panic button on your car alarm, but the for the sake of drama, let's pretend those options arn't there for you. Your spouse is frantically whispering, "Get the gun. Get the gun." So you do, but first you have to:
A: Get it out of the gun vault. What was than damn combination again?
B: Or if not in a vault, remember where you've hidden it. Under the mattress? In a drawer? Shit! Where did I put it?
C: Do A and B in the dark while your heart is beating like a jack hammer.

But you find it, jack a round in the chamber, and head down the hall when THERE HE IS, right there, ten feet in front of you. Oh Sweet Baby Jesus. What do I do now?

Now we're at the crux of the matter. Do you shoot? Can you shoot? Are you shaking so bad you couldn't hit the inside of a barn if you were standing in the middle of it? We've all heard stories of a highly trained police officer and a bad guy, having a shootout in a small room, and emptying their weapons without one single hit.  In addition, I don't think I'd be far off in guessing that 99% of us are not mentally prepared to shoot someone, to take a life. Granted, that decision would be a lot simpler if you or your family was believed to be in mortal danger and shooting was necessary to protect yourself or your loved ones, but what if it wasn't as clear cut as that?

Lets say you flip on the light and it's a kid, a teenager, no visible weapon, who thought the house was empty, and was looking for some dope money. Say he sees you, turns, and runs. Do you blow him away? As it was explained to me by an officer of the law, legally, it can get very sticky at this point. A court could decide that when the boy turned to run, he was no longer a threat, and by shooting him, you are now in deep doo-doo. But let's say the law decides it was a righteous shooting, you were justified in your action. You're home free. Hold on. There's the matter of the family of the recently deceased. In all likelihood, they are going to sue your ass in civil court and guess what? They might just win.

Then there's the matter of your own psyche, your mental health in the aftermath of taking a human life. How long would it be, if ever, that you could get a full night's sleep without dreaming of  the thunderous boom of the gun, seeing a man fall, and all that blood spreading over your carpet?

Let's go back for a moment on being mentally prepared. A recent event in Tulsa had a good Samaritan investigating an alarm in his neighbor's apartment. He had a gun with him but had the misfortune of meeting up with the intruder. The intruder took the man's gun away from him, shot him, and killed him. The good neighbor was murdered because he was not mentally prepared to use his weapon in the event of a common burglary. Simple as that.

Johnny Cash said it best:
Don't take your guns to town son.
Leave your guns at home Bill.
Don't take your guns to town.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

One Night Stand

I spent one night in a motel in Cherokee, Oklahoma (alone) and the next morning standing on a chilly observation tower on the Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge waiting with a camera for some Sandhill Cranes to show up. And show up they did, thousands of them. Actually, they were already there as they come into the refuge to overnight and then fly out to feed during the day. Not all of them of course, some sleep in, others stand around and rest, chatting among themselves on their favorite topics; food, the recent flight, and the weather.

The cranes breed in Canada and Alaska and then, as any sensible bird would, fly south for the winter. Salt Plains is but one stopover point. The Platte River in Nebraska is another well known resting spot. They're big birds, impressive, about 3 and 1/2 half feet long with a wingspan of six to seven feet. They have a unique call. Folks more knowledgeable than I describe it as a long, wooden, rattle, a sort of bugle. To me, it sounds a little like a Mourning Dove trying to gargle.

Not only was it cold that morning with a strong northwest wind and the temperature around 40 degrees, but the early light wasn't lining up for the best photography. The Sandhills take off into the wind which meant I was getting a lot of butt shots and very few where the bird was well lit. Challenging but still a lot of fun.

I had visited the same spot the previous evening at sundown when conditions were less harsh. As far as I could tell, there was not another human being around.  I had the entire area to myself, well, me and 20,000 birds. A thin band of clouds in the west hinted of a colorful sunset as I stood and watched and listened as flock after flock of cranes flew overhead and across the horizon. Some landed close, within a hundred yards, while others continued  to the far side of the lake for the safety of an island. Shorebirds skittered along the bank in front of me, dipping their fragile looking bills over and over, hoping for one last morsel of food before dark. The ducks were there as well, landing  with a loud whoosh as hundreds of webbed feet made contact with the water.

At some point, the light was finally gone and after taking just a few more shots of the cranes silhouetted against the orange sky, I turned the cameras off and made the short walk back to the truck. I laughed as two armadillos practically ran into me as they scampered across the trail. It was a good day.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

What Time Is It?

I've never been a big fan of the time change; Spring forward, Fall back, that crap. For one thing, there's all those clocks to deal with.  Bedrooms; three clocks. Kitchen; two clocks. Office; two clocks. With the exception of one tick-tock here in the Man Cave, all the rest are digital which means you have to use your Sunday morning, fogged up brain, to figure out how to reset the damn things. Two of the clocks, of their own free will, decided to adjust to a whole new time about a week ago when the time change used to take effect. Whassup with that? Wasn't it president W. that screwed that up; decided it wasn't right to go with the change on the customary dates? Something about saving money? For who? Can't recall that it saved me any dough. So now we have that little reset to deal with as well as the official reset.

There's the clock on the cable box, but it changes automatically thanks be to whoever controls that function. And wonder of wonders, my little ol' Casio wrist watch, total cost $34, is tuned to some atomic clock rumored to be in Colorado, also switches to the correct time (to the second I might add) exactly at the stroke of 2:00 a.m. or is 3:00? Spring back, Fall forward? It's so confusing.

Then there's our internal clocks, the ones that tell us when it's time to wake up and when to go beddy-bye. How do you adjust that little time piece at 2 a.m. in the freakin' morning? Answer is, you don't. You wake up, the light outside is different, somethings wrong, it's a Twilight Zone thing. Something strange has happened during the night but you can't put your finger on it, not early on a Sunday morning anyway. It's three hours and a half a pot of coffee later that you realize your life pattern has changed and will stay that way for what, another six months when you have to suffer through it all over again?

And what about this? Did you damn time changers just once consider us Sunday Morning Bloody Mary drinkers? Huh? Thousands, maybe millions of us, whose routines have now been thrown into shambles? I think not. Oh, the humanity!

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Wild Sounds

Unless you're in a national park where the animals have become accustomed to throngs of people, getting a photo of a truly wild animal can be quite challenging. I can't speak for other states but here in Oklahoma, the sight of a coyote or bobcat throws the locals into a state of blood lust whereupon they grab their weapons from the gun rack or behind the seat of their pickups and blast away. No surprise then, that our wildlife avoids the presence of humans if at all possible, running for their very lives at the sight of one. The animals seldom stop to look to see if its a camera lens or a gun barrel that's being aimed at them.

I started thinking about using a predator call to bring in some of the critters. There's dozens of them on the market, mostly designed for hunters of course, but no reason they couldn't just as well be used for photography. And although I would use it only for photos, there is still a bit of an ethical problem. Wild animals, in order to survive, must take in as much energy as they burn. For them to use that energy to find the source of what they think is potential game and then find nothing but a piece of plastic with a speaker on one end, is troublesome. The national wildlife refuges do not permit electronic callers to be used on refuge property for that very reason.

 However, I'm trying to justify using one, if only in my head, based on the conditions of plentiful food and mild weather. To lure a coyote through waist deep snow for instance, would be much more stressful than calling him in across an Oklahoma plain, or so it seems to me. Then there's always the hope, though remote, that a good photo of say, a bobcat, would make some potential shooters think twice and maybe even consider taking up a camera instead of a rifle. Their "trophy" could be a beautiful photo on the wall rather than a bloody carcass or a mount that eventually gets ratty and moth eaten only to eventually be thrown in some attic.

With all that in mind, I began shopping the Internet for a caller. Finding one in my price range, I studied the reviews to check on the quality of the product. That turned out to be a little disturbing. Dozens of users told of calling in the "yotes" (coyotes) and dropping them within minutes of turning the caller on. Another young man related how two raccoons and a skunk showed up on his first night out which he promptly shot and killed, proudly displaying their corpses on the tailgate of his pickup. I don't get it. Hunting for the dinner table or for survival or to control over-population or to protect livestock is one thing, but killing a coon or skunk just to watch it fall? What's up with that?

Maybe I'm getting soft and sentimental in my old age, but in my opinion, calling in a wild animal, in season or not, for no other reason than using it for target practice is not only unethical, it's just plain disgusting. Again, I don't get it.