Thursday, March 23, 2017

The Square Peg - Robocalls, Round Two

The Square Peg - Robocalls, Round Two
© S. Bradley Stoner

I’ve had it. After a brief, and I mean very brief, lull those annoying robocalls have started up again. I don’t know if it is because of some search I did on the Internet, or some national demographic survey, but now I’m getting calls from medical supply (or so they say) companies. Hey bozos, I’m not falling apart! And I’m not feeble minded, tinged with old timer’s disease, or forgetful.

I didn’t call you about a back brace, so stop with that, “We’re returning your call about the brace you ordered.” I didn’t order one. And, yes, I had a round with diabetes, but I’ve been off all medication for five, going on six years. My blood sugar is just fine, so I don’t need any of the crap you’re trying to sell me. And quit telling me your name is Sally or Bob. I recognize a Bombay accent when I hear it. So don’t be surprised when I hang up on you.

Oh, and who targeted me for catheters? Huh? I don’t and never have had any issues in that area. Hell, I don’t even like those aged-friendly ads on TV that encourage folks to try their catheter sample pack, assuring you that you’ll find one that is comfortable and easy to use. Why do they allow that crap on TV anyway? If you have issues in that area, see your doctor for crying out loud. I don’t want to know about it.

“Have you been tested for Hep C? You know, one in three baby boomers has Hep C and it can hide in your body for years...” Yeah, yeah, and blah, blah, blah. I don’t have that either, so peddle your papers somewhere else.

As a result of a drawing where I registered at a nearby mall, I’ve won a fabulous cruise for two. Really? I haven’t seen the inside of a mall for oh, I don’t know, maybe two years. And I don’t register for anything in a mall. That’s just their way of collecting your contact information. So, no, I’m not agreeing to the terms and conditions for this fabulous free cruise... and you’re not getting any of my personal info, especially not my credit card number, but if you’d like to give me yours... click.

“This is a follow up call to your request for information... for Spanish press 2. Did you know they don’t have a button selection to “blow up the call center?” I know, I’ve listened to all the options. They don’t have a “Go to the devil” button either. They really need to include that option. I’ll bet it would become the favorite button to punch. I’d wear the number right off.

The one I really hate starts off, “Do not hang up... this is not a solicitation. Your credit card...” Um, if it ain’t a real person, I’m not taking calls about my credit card. From anybody. Ever. Period. Got it? Unlike a lot of folks, I actually review my bill. If there is something awry, trust me, I’ll contact my credit card company. If I’m lucky, I won’t have to wait due to them “experiencing an unusually high call volume.” That, by the way is a load of crap too. What they’re experiencing is under-staffing. It’s a common problem in the electronic age.

After fielding all those political calls last year, I thought I’d get a respite. Wrong. Not only is there a local election looming here, apparently the lobbyists feel the need to call me to get me to call my representatives in Congress to express my support for whatever it is the lobbyists happen to be pushing at the time. Here’s a clue... if I want to voice my opinion on a political issue, I’ll do it directly, not at the behest of some voice on the end of a telephone connection. And oh by the way, you’re not getting my credit card number either and I’m not making a contribution to save the twerps or whatever it is you felt the need to ring me up over.

Just because we’re in the electronic age doesn’t make it okay for all you telemarketers to program my number into your computer dialer and connect me to your canned spiels. It’s bad enough that you fill my spam file with your crap. It went to the spam file for a reason... maybe somebody can invent a spam file for the telephone. The minute it detects an auto-connection, zippety zoo zah, right into the telephone toilet bowl. What about it, all you electronic wizards out there? At a paltry price of five cents per customer per month, you’d make a fortune. On the other hand, I’d probably get a robocall offering me the service.

Friday, March 17, 2017

The Square Peg - Greenis Envy

The Square Peg - Greenis Envy
© S. Bradley Stoner

Bingo Bob was in fine fettle this morning. It wasn’t even ten o’clock and his red nose and rosy cheeks told me all I needed to know. Yep, he started celebrating early. I saw him sauntering down the street, aimed right at me. Oh great. It was too late to run and I couldn’t pretend I hadn’t seen him. He was hard to miss on the light gray cement of the sidewalk. You might say he provided contrast. Now if he had walked on the lawns, that might have been a different story. If you haven’t guessed at this point, Bob was decked out in bright Irish green. Green shirt, green knickers, green jacket, green striped socks, shiny black shoes, all topped off with a green top hat encircled by a black band with a gold buckle. He looked like a deranged leprechaun.

“Top o’ the marnin’ to you!” he lilted.

“Bob, I hate to tell you this, but your accent is off... you sound like you tripped in a Boston bar and fell into a kettle of cod. Besides, you’re of Italian and German ancestry, aren’t you?”

“T’day we’re all a bit o’ the Irish!” he proclaimed with a broad sweep of his hand.

About that time, Duncan, seeing the green apparition from his front porch, came up behind Bob. Duncan can be stealthy when he wants to. “LOSE YOUR RAINBOW, DID YA BOB?!” he fairly shouted, causing Bob to jump about two feet in the air, which is no easy feat given Bob’s weighty attachment to Mother Earth.

Bob whirled on Duncan. Even with the shock of surprise, Bob maintained his horrible impression of an Irish accent. “Jaysus, Mary, and Joseph... didn’t ya know it’s bad play to sneak up on an Irishman?” he demanded.

I snickered. Duncan sneered.

“Irish? You’re about as Irish as I am Hottentot! Although I will allow that, for a Jerseyite, you’re about as full of blarney as they come,” Duncan snorted.

About that time there was a little shift in the wind and the scent of Irish whiskey wafted up my nose. I waved my hand in front of my nose to scare the devil away. “Been hitting the Jameson already? It’s a bit early, isn’t it?”

“I had an Irish coffee this morning,” Bob said defensively, although I have no idea why. He’s never been apologetic about partaking of the divine sauces as long as I’ve known him.

“More like two or three,” Duncan said, backing up a couple of steps.

Bob stuck out his chin. “Well, it’s a national holiday! I’m entitled,” he declared. “’sides, we get the day off and, like they say, it’s five o’clock somewhere in the world.”
“You get the day off?” I asked incredulously.

“Well, everybody does, don’t they? Like I said, it’s a national holiday. It’s on the calendar and everything.”

“Might be a national holiday,” Duncan offered, “but it sure as Sam Hill isn’t a federal holiday. I don’t know of any businesses that give their employees Saint Patty’s day off... at least not with pay. Hope you asked for the day off. Remember what happened when you took the first day of Oktoberfest off?”

I nodded in agreement. “I’d call in sick right now, if I were you.”

“You guys are kidding, right?” Bob said nervously.


“Not a chance.”

“But there are parades and everything... just like the fourth of July.” Bob’s face, now creased with worry, turned a bit redder.

Charlie stopped on his way home, took one look at Bob and asked, “What’s the matter Bob, somebody steal your Lucky Charms?”

“Naw, we just told him that today isn’t a federal holiday... and he doesn’t get a paid day off,” Duncan grinned.

Charlie shook his head, “Boy, talk about the luck of the Irish...”

“What’s that mean?!” Bob demanded.

“I was just thinking about the potato famine...”

“Ah,” I interjected, “there’s the old history teacher!”

“The what?” Bob looked annoyed.

“You know, the big reason so many Irish immigrated here,” Duncan said.

“You learn well, Grasshopper,” Charlie rejoined.

“Hey,” I offered, “grasshoppers are green too... wonder if they get the day off?”

Bob started to fume. “You guys are all...”

“Don’t say it, Bob,” Duncan warned, “or you’ll be contributing to the swear jar again.”
Bob threw a dollar at Duncan and finished his sentence. “...assholes! By the way... that dollar is green too, so if you pin it to your shirt, maybe nobody will pinch you.”

Bob eyed me.

“Don’t even think about it Bob, I’m standing on my lawn.”

“Not to mention, he’s holding a shovel,” Charlie added.

Bob frowned, spun on his heel and headed home, calling over his shoulder, “You know what you guys have got?”

“What’s that, Bob?” we chorused.

“You’ve got greenis envy, that’s what!”

Happy Saint Patty’s Day, y’all!

Thursday, March 9, 2017

The Square Peg - Tax Time, I.R.S.

The Square Peg - Tax Time, I.R.S.
© S. Bradley Stoner

Well, I went fishing on the coast last week. I had a great time... caught  a lot of fish, Gaftopsail Catfish, Sand trout, Mullet, and one ugly fish (aka Stargazer/Monk Fish). I even started to write a blog about it, but I never got it finished. You know why? It’s tax time again. Tax Time - It Really Sucks. And it really sucks that it comes around once a year just in time to put a damper on spring.

What I want to know is, who writes those instruction booklets? It’s not so much the income part that drives me mad, it’s the instructions for deductions. Why can’t they write those like they do the income parts? Huh? I mean for income they tell you “enter all wages, salaries, tips, etc.” on line 7. They even go through all the codes that appear on your W-2 and tell you what and what does not apply to “income.” Not that any of that matters to me anymore... I’m retired, but my wife works, so it applies to her. Given that I do the taxes, it’s good info.

Deductions and itemized expenses (form 1040 Section A) are another story. I get 1099s for my consulting work and book royalties. They don’t withhold taxes from those. So, I have to file a form 1040 Section C... and if it happened to be a profitable year, a form 1040 Section SE to figure out what part of my paltry profits I have to donate to Social Security Taxes and Income Taxes. And then I get a 1098 from my mortgage company that tells me how much I paid in mortgage interest, property taxes, and homeowners insurance. What that means is that I have to reference two other instruction booklets. To top it off, I have a source of supplemental income... yep, one more form... Schedule E, and one more booklet to read.

It wouldn’t be so bad except that all these schedule booklets refer you to yet more IRS publications you must consult or you’ll get your taxes wrong... and, as we all know, that could have some nasty consequences. Odd’s are you’ll pay more and get less on your refund if the IRS decides they have to correct your goofs.

It’s not that my taxes are overly complicated... I’m not exactly in the higher income bracket any more. It’s more like doing them is a giant pain in the a$$ (I think that’s an appropriate spelling, don’t you?).

Why are the rules so complicated? Easy, they were written by lawyers, who don’t speak or write language you or I can understand, even though there was a directive to write laws and rules in “plain English” sometime back. Law school apparently stamps out “plain English” and replaces it with (what they consider more precise) legalese. Of course anyone who has had to deal with lawyers is well aware that precision isn’t their strong point... with all those whereas-es. here-to-fores, whereupons, and so forth, their precision translates into your giant weasel worded document.

For years, I have hoped against hope that the IRS code would be scrapped in favor of a flat tax system. You know something that’s straightforward, simple, and fair. That way we could get rid of all those lawyers and IRS Certified Public A$$holes... er, Accountants, and I’d get my fishing time back.

At least Texas has it’s part of income taxes done right... they don’t have any. Y’all have a wonderful rest of the week... and if you haven’t yet done your taxes, well, good luck and keep the antacids handy.

Friday, February 24, 2017

The Square Peg - Zero Dark Thirty

The Square Peg - Zero Dark Thirty
© S. Bradley Stoner

I know y’all are anticipating it. It’s only a week away and I already can hear the grumbling. Oh, it’s at low volume now, but, trust me, it will grow as the week progresses. Yessiree Bob, I’m talkin’ about good old daylight savings time. Thank you, Ben Franklin! That’s right, folks, old Ben came up with the idea in 1784 in an essay he wrote for some French newspaper. Uh huh, he proposed the French get up an hour earlier to make use of the morning hours to save on the cost of candles. Yep, a genuine pioneer of solar power was our friend Franklin. Of course, he was joking, but so enamored of old Ben were the French that they took it as a serious suggestion. Apparently they also lack a sense of humor and don’t understand satire. They probably think “The Onion” reports legitimate news.

Now one might think the French would have been the first to employ this trickery to get up and get to work earlier, but the fact is, they just aren’t that motivated. Remember, they’re the ones that came up with “C’est la vie... c’est la guerre” accompanied by a shrug of the shoulders. It’s sort of like the Mexican “mañana,” which means “whenever” of course. On the other hand, Germany rather liked the idea of engineering time... almost as much as they like engineering everything else. So in order to save fuel for more important pursuits (like invading France), the Kaiser’s official clock setters turned ‘em back an hour before anyone else did.

This took the French completely by surprise. I mean, who would interrupt a person’s morning coffee and croissant by such an impertinent action as lobbing one ton explosive shells across the border? This of course shook Chef des Armées Joffre out of bed and sent his mistress running for cover. It was a rude awakening. The U.S. followed suit in 1918, but cooler heads prevailed after the war and repealed it, only to have it reinstituted in 1942. It was a war thing. But I digress. Back to the future.

My question is this, what do you gain with daylight savings time? Do you get more hours in a day? No. It still takes the earth 24 hours, give or take, to make a full rotation. Do you save money on your power bill? Nope. You just burn your lights on the beginning of the day rather than the end. Do you get more recreational time? Not if you work. And if you’re retired, it doesn’t make a bit of difference.

So what does it do? I’ll tell you what it does. It makes you get up at zero dark thirty for an extra two months. That’s what it does. It gets you out in the commuter lanes while it’s still dark, and it does it during the rainy season. And since folks are driving half asleep, that increases your odds of getting smacked or smacking into someone else. Oh, and it makes all the kiddies go to bed while it’s still light, which is just plain stupid. They’re not going to go to sleep. They’re going to sneak out of bed to play with their toys or fire up that PS2 and turn the volume down. Then they’re going to fall asleep eating breakfast and during class. Then you’ll get nasty notes from their tired, grumpy teacher telling you to enforce bed times. Like that will work.

I’ll tell you what else it does. It makes fuzzy thinkers out of normally bright employees. Why? Because it throws off their natural body clock that triggers the brain to wonder, “Why am I up so early? I need my rest. You want me to work properly? Let me get some sleep you freaking moron.” Of course the previous night it was saying, “Barbeque? Beer? Music? Dancing? Oh yeah! Party on, dude!” Which, of course, you did, rendering your morning brain worthless and hurting to boot. This makes your boss, who’s at least a generation older than you, wonder, ‘What’s wrong with kids these days?’ And he should, given the volume of really stupid ideas hatched by brains that aren’t fully functional. I’m pretty sure this condition is epidemic in the advertising business. It would explain all the really stupid ads coming out.

Don’t worry, though. I don’t blame you. I blame Ben Franklin and his stupid joke... and the French journal that published it as a serious essay. If old Ben were still around, he’d probably revise that clever saying about “early to bed...” Now it would probably go something like, “Late to bed, early to rise will leave your brain anesthetized.”

Y’all don’t forget to set your clocks ahead on the 5th of March. Maybe by the ides you’ll adjust to getting up at a ridiculous hour.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

The Square Peg - So I’m like, “It’s literally epic, dude... seriously... it totally is!”

The Square Peg - So I’m like, “It’s literally epic, dude... seriously... it totally is!”
© S. Bradley Stoner

I thought long and hard about writing this. After all, I want to raise young people’s self-esteem, not dash it into the ground. I know each generation develops its own “youth language” to separate itself from the old fogey nation. The generations before mine had terms like 23 skidoo, she’s the bee’s knees, that’s the berries, classy chassis, hep cat, hipster, cool cat, square, copping a bit, getting your kicks, wigging out, and on and on.

My generation had far out, bummer, main squeeze, bad (meaning awesome as in “bad to the bone”), blitzed, funky, groovy, bogart (meaning to steal) aka rip off; from the drug culture we had weed, acid, stoned, doper/stoner, upper, downer, flying, crashing; and from the war, in country (to be in Vietnam), Indian country (enemy held territory), dee dee (run away), Charlie (from the military phonetics Victor Charlie for Viet Cong), FNG ( F_ing New Guy), and any number of colorful combinations of parentage and the “f” word... of course that was sort of pandemic in my generation and those of us who used it sparingly and seldom were considered square. Like people over 30, squares were not to be trusted.

I know the list is long compared to the previous one. Sue me... I know more about this that previous generations’ slanguage. Besides, I gave you only a smattering of it. I’ve forgotten a lot of it. That happens when you get a little age and realize that the rest of the world, particularly those in charge of hiring, neither use nor care for what they see as uncouth and common. Therefore, as one matures, one realizes that vulgarities and plebeian language doesn’t elevate one in esteem or salary. One chooses to embrace a more cultured approach. How’s that for a pompous string of words?

That brings us to today’s slanguage of the younger generation. Who decided every sentence has to be started with “so?” And why is everything :literally” this or that? And do you have to say “I mean” before you tell us what you mean? Every time? Oh, and by the way, not everything is “epic.” And, call your buddies “dude.” I’m not your buddy and I am most certainly not a “dude.” And please, please, stop with the “OMG,” girls, every time you think you need to express surprise, as in, “OMG did you see what she was wearing?!” Unless she wore a thong and a bra to class, it doesn’t require an OMG.

I won’t mention “totally.” Oh yes I will. It’s right up there with “literally.” Very few things are “totally” anything. And for those of you who are wont to say it, you can’t “literally die” and still be walking around. No, Virginia, zombies aren’t real. The only thing eating your brain is that little screen on your cell phone... and please, for your sake and everybody else’s, put that damn thing down when you’re behind the wheel of that two ton wrecking ball. You “literally” could die texting while driving. Seriously. (Oh, and that is a proper usage of that term).

And guys, stop using random unless something really is random. Very few people make “random comments” unless they’re on a psychiatric ward, drunk, or stoned. Also, you don’t make out with “some random girl,” and if you do, I hope you’re carrying protection or you might come home with some random gift you really don’t want. Then you’ll have to visit some random doctor who will give you an antibiotic in a not so random spot and you’ll probably limp for a day or two, which might elicit some random barbs from your not so random buddies, and that’s totally humiliating.

Last, but by no means least, will y’all please quit using acronyms on social media. I’m really getting sick of having to guess at what you are trying to convey or having to Google it. If I wanted to immerse myself in a sea of acronyms, I’d go back to consulting with DoD, EPA, DOE, ICE, OSHA, NASA, WSMR, LANL, LLNL, ORNL, FDA, DEQ, NGB and DNRC on P2, CERCLA,SPCCP, SWMP, EPCRA, TRI, SW, SDWA, NEPA, QRP, HAZWOPER, SUMRA, SUMSA, FLPMA, among others. Seriously. I mean it. Literally. Hmmm.... I've finally reached fogeydom. ROFLMAO!