Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Just the beginning

I am not a “handy” man. I do not say that to excuse myself as these are self imposed limits to my home improvement abilities. These limits were set years ago when I discovered that I’d rather do other things with my time than re-tile a bathroom or install crown molding throughout the house. From my conversations with other men I realize that I am in the minority here; still there hasn’t been a compelling argument to change my mind, so I do what I feel comfortable with and leave the rest to others.

My general rule of thumb is that if I can’t complete a task in a weekend I’m enlisting the help of someone else. And by “enlisting the help” I mean I’m going to pay someone because I don’t want to do it. I’ll do what needs to be done but feel no desire to stray far outside my comfort zone.

It’s not that I don’t get that deep sense of satisfaction from a do-it-yourself job, I do. Matter of fact in many cases that feeling of satisfaction is probably disproportionate to the actual task. For instance I can repair a broken rail on a kitchen drawer and feel like Bob Villa. Heck I installed a couple of ceiling fans in our first home and you would have thought I framed the walls and poured the foundation that held them up the way I showed them off. The thing is that feeling that comes from a do-it-yourself job hardly ever justifies, at least in my mind, the headache that accompanies said job.

Case in point, this past weekend I had some work to do on my grass. I had some other errands to run and took my youngest child with me. We went to Home Depot and made our way over to the lawn and garden section. I found the necessary bags of stuff I was going to spread over my wilting lawn and to my delight saw there was no waiting at the lawn and garden register. I paid for my things and we loaded up the car and returned home.

I hadn’t taken two steps in the door when my wife asked if I remembered to get the replacement sprinkler heads for the back yard. Doah! In my excitement at finding an open register I had forgotten about the sprinklers.

I retrieved my keys from the kitchen counter and headed back to the Depot. I arrived at the irrigation isle and only then remembered that there were two heights of sprinkler heads. I had run into this the last time I had to replace one and remembered that fortunately at that time I had guessed right. I held the 2” and 4” heads in my hand. After a brief internal debate I decided that I was 51% sure that I had the 2” sprinkler heads. I grab two with the appropriate configuration and headed for the checkout. It was then I ran across a display of 4” sprinkler heads bundled in a 4 pack for additional savings. The cheapskate inside of me caused me to return the 2” sprinkler heads on the chance that I could save money and have a surplus for the next time I needed one. So I, with some trepidation, tucked the 4 pack under my arm and headed home.

After unearthing the first sprinkler, much to my chagrin, I found that my gamble was folly as a pulled a 2” casing from the ground. I cursed my foolishness but wisely dug out the other sprinkler head as well. I discovered that it too was a 2” head but with a ½ inch extension, meaning that I would have had to return for a third trip even if I had stayed with my original 2” selection.

So I took the shameful trip to the returns counter and explained that I had gotten the wrong part. She said ‘no problem’ and took my 4 pack and placed it in a full bin next to like six other bins full of returns. As I was leaving the store, with the correct parts this time, I passed a man in the parking lot who had exited the building with me on my first trip. He was walking towards the store carrying a bag with a receipt. We exchanged a knowing smile and nod as we passed each other and he continued on his own walk of shame.

Can somebody tell me why it is that trips to Home Depot are like potato chips, you can never have just one?

I know you purveyors of hindsight wisdom will say that with a bit more planning or preparation you can avoid multiple trips. If we were talking about any other place in the world I would say that you were correct, but not Home Depot. Oh no, it can’t be done. You’ll forget something or buy the wrong size or get too much or not enough. You’ll discover a previously unseen problem buried beneath the original problem or find that the final product isn’t how you imagined it and you’ll have to start over. It will happen; something will compel you to return.

It’s a phenomenon like Big Foot and UFO’s or ESP and Déjà vu; you can’t explain it but you know it’s there. So don’t smirk at the wild eyed tales of an unending loop of Home Depot horror trips. One day it will be you. When that moment arrives remember me and remember at Home Depot you can do it and they can help but more saving means more doing and low prices are just the beginning of your descent into madness. Sometimes it’s just not worth it.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Not the tweet'n kind

This past week Newt Gingrich announced his intention to seek the Republican nomination for President of the United States of America…on Twitter. FYI he couldn’t have tweeted that last sentence because it was over the 140 character Twitter limit (I checked).

Earlier this month, Pittsburg Steelers running back, Rashard Mendenhall caused a stir by posting his thoughts on Osama Bin Laden’s death and the World Trade Center attacks; also on Twitter.

In both cases what was shocking to me was not the content of their entries but the weight people gave to them. In my mind there’s nothing contained in social media of any real significance. It should be light, fun and entertaining. It should not be news. Nothing posted on facebook or Twitter should be a catalyst for someone making a major decision or formulating a valid and lasting opinion. The forum is too limited and any clown with a keyboard and monitor and create content (yes smart alecks just like this blog. Shut it I’m trying to make a point).

Likewise texting and instant messaging are insufficient for communicating anything of substance. All attempts to use these mediums to replace more personal interactions are folly.

Imagine with me, if you will, that this technology had been available in times past. They never could have substituted for good old fashion speaking or writing.

What if Martin Luther King Jr. had tweeted his famous I have a dream speech?

And that would be it because he hit his 140 character limit.

How about if Kennedy had posted his inaugural address on facebook?

Let’s say Lincoln had texted at Gettysburg?

It would be ridiculous and no one could have possibly taken them seriously. Why then do so many give so much credence to the communication wrought by these methods?

People please, I beg you, let’s have some perspective. If you’ve got a smartphone and two thumbs you can put your thoughts out into cyberspace [brain not required]. This is not earth shattering stuff. While there are brilliant and clever applications for social media they are not a conduit for crucial information or an appropriate primary vehicle for social/political reform.

Am I the only one who thinks it’s insane to launch a presidential campaign with the same app Lady Gaga could use to share what she had for breakfast?

I’ll admit I text now and then. I’m on Twitter and facebook but there’s a season and a time to every purpose under heaven. A time to tweet and a time to text; a time to update your status and a time to refrain from updating your status. We are all just getting a little too carried away. Now if you’ll excuse me I’ve got to link to this post on facebook and tweet this junk to my tweeps.

P.S. I had a text version of Bush’s 9/11 address:

OMG Osama! WTF! Not cool. BTW 182.

But I thought better of it. Not because it was in poor taste but because I could imagine him doing it. Just too close to reality.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Dancing in the streets

I hope you’ll forgive that this entry has a different tone and tenor from my other posts but it’s my blog and I’ll decry if I want to.

The events of the past week have caused me to reflect somewhat and really examine how I feel about certain things.

I remember the sinking feeling in my stomach as the planes collided with the twin towers and those massive buildings collapsed. I tried to imagine the horror those people must have experienced in the last moments of their lives. I felt sadness for them and their families. I was relieved that none of my family or friends had been killed and I was scared for the future.

Glued to my television for the rest of the day I watched report after report as the details rolled in as to what had just happened. Although I was somewhat aware that other people in other countries didn’t like the United States I had no idea the depth of their hatred and what that blind hatred would lead them to do.

I was shocked and horrified to see the reaction in certain parts of the world where people celebrated and danced in the streets, burning the American flag and singing. It made me angry, just as angry as I was at the people who had actually carried out this heinous mass murder. What kind of people, regardless of their feelings towards us, would celebrate death?

Flash forward nearly ten years. Sunday night the announcement came that Osama Bin Laden had been killed by U.S. forces. Every local channel cut from their programming as we waited for President Obama to make it official. Facebook and Twitter exploded as the word spread.

People tweeted things like “FINALLY…” or expressed their pride in our armed forces. Facebook posts ranged from “Ding Dong Bin Laden’s dead” to “Rot in Hell.”

Crowds began to gather outside the White House and at the site where the towers fell. Jubilant crowds held up signs and waved flags; some woowho’d at television cameras as they jogged by to join the masses. They sang The Star Spangled Banner and chanted U-S-A, U-S-A, U-S-A!

As I watched this scene unfold something just didn’t feel right. What kind of people, regardless of their feelings toward him, would celebrate death?

I completely understand the deep feeling of satisfaction that people, including myself, feel as some measure of justice was served to a man who has brought some much pain and suffering to so many. I get that we, as a people, haven’t had much to celebrate these past ten years; lives lost, a seemingly unending clustercuss of a war, an economic recession, loss of jobs and homes, rising gas prices and just an overall feeling of uncertainty. It really felt like we needed a win.

The goal was to bring Bin Laden to justice. I always believed that ultimately that would involve him dying, whether it was in a firefight or an execution ordered by a court. That part felt right to me.

I can’t tell people what to feel or how to act but my hope is that we don’t get carried away and lose sight of who we are. We did not ask for this, it came to us. We do not “delight in the shedding of blood…Nevertheless, [we] could not suffer to lay down [our] lives, that [our] wives and [our] children should be massacred by the barbarous cruelty of those who were once [our] brethren.” (Alma 48:23)

Life is a precious gift from our Father in Heaven. It is a joyous occasion when a new life begins and rightly so. When a life ends that passing ought to be met at the very least with reverence not revelry.

There is most certainly evil in this world and I am grateful to the good men and women who tirelessly work and sacrifice to guard against it. Sometimes that means taking a life. However, let’s not ever take lightly just what that means.

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