Sunday, March 01, 2015

Showing You Up

     So it is Sunday morning, Company, and in the grand tradition of the American male I am talking to my television, despite the fact that it does not complete the conversation.  Well, okay.  I am yelling at my television.  The reason being is that I am watching a show in which a guy shows you how to do home improvements and basic carpentry projects.  Today he is building a custom barbecue cart to put out next to his grill, complete with wheels, a cutting board, a paper towel holder, and a spice rack.  It is streets ahead I have to admit.  That being said, it is completely, totally out of reach for 90% of the population, and probably closer to 99.7% of the people actually watching the show right now.
A spindle sander.  You don't own one.
     The problem with this show, and the bulk of how-to shows out there - be them car repair shows, cooking shows, building shows, etc. - is that 100% of them use tools that the average person doesn't have in their home.  There it is.  That is why I am yelling at the TV.  In making his cart, this guy has used both a spindle sander and a biscuit joiner.  Now let me ask you this, Company:  How many people do you know who own a biscuit joiner?  I know approximately zero. 
     This is not a rip on the guy who used one.  The spindle sander was the best tool for the job he was doing.  Same for the biscuit joiner.  Same for the cook who uses a stick blender or a cooking torch.  Or the mechanic who is using a gear puller.  These are all the right tools with the right techniques for doing these things.  But we don't have those in our garage or kitchen or garage.
     I understand - for all of you who want to be the devil's advocate - that in a large way these shows aren't designed to be instructional.  Most of the time, they don't ever intend for you to exactly replicate whatever they do.  These shows exist because people like to watch other people do things, especially things they can't do.  Maybe while watching the pros you get an idea for a new technique or tool that you might be able to use.  I am completely, totally aware of this phenomenon.  And all that is fine.  I do think, however, that there is another possibly unintended consequence of these shows.
     You watch the show because you are interested in what they do.  You like putzing in the garage.  You like to cook, or maybe you really like to eat.  So you watch shows about cooking or eating or putzing in the garage and see them doing all of these projects that you will never be able to do because you don't have the tools.  And you start watching all of the specialty tools and equipment they use in the shop.  And you see all
You probably don't have one of these slicers either.
of the exotic ingredients that they use in the kitchen that you would have to special order at great expense.  And somewhere deep in back of your mind, a door closes.  Your unconscious brain does the math after consulting with your paycheck and the amount of space available in your garage and your natural, God-given ability and your ability to learn new things and your time budget and makes the complicated decision that you will never be a woodworker.  Or you will never restore cars.  Or you will never be a fantastic gourmet chef.
     And there it goes.  There goes your dream.  So maybe there is a niche in there, Company.  We can leave all those pie in the sky shows because obviously they serve their purpose and we like them.  I am okay with them, I really am, even if I am a little angry that Rachel Ray can easily prepare any meal in 30 minutes because "she preps everything when she brings it home from the store."  Strange, I didn't know making a sous chef do it for you before the camera rolls counts as prepping it when you bring it home from the store.  Okay, rant over.  The point is that maybe, just maybe, we could have a couple of show where they say "This is how you can do it with the tools you have at home."  Which consist of a circular saw, a hand mixer, and six sockets.  You know what I mean?  I might not watch that show on TV all the time but I would be on their website EVERY FREAKING DAY.  Just a thought.  And if I had taken the time to Google this idea I am sure that I would see a YouTube channel or a website or two that brings this to fruition.  But is it too much to ask for a little realism on TV?

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Happy Valentine's Day

     So here it is - Valentine's Day.  And in much of the eastern half of America it is pretty cold and awful outside weatherwise, which of course means that there will be a lot of new people coming into this world in mid-November. 
    All enjoyable recreational pursuits aside, Valentine's Day really is a holiday that has something for everyone.  For all of you people out there who are in love and it is still sort of white hot, you have all the romantic traditional Valentine's Day stuff, right?  Vermont bed & breakfasts, flowers, poetry, etc.  For those of you who are still in love but maybe it's been awhile and the slings and arrows - non Cupid - of daily life have broken down some of the romance and white-hotness of the whole thing, you have the opportunity to stoke the fires as it were.  For all you singles out there, well, sucks for you.  Suck it up and deal with it, okay?  If you are a conspiracy theorist, you have the whole "this holiday was created by the gift card companies" line of though, which might be true but let's be honest, they have developed a gift card for every situation and personality, they don't need a special day.  It's also a big day for anyone who is into mob history.  Yeah.  Or maybe you are a big fan of celebrating various feat days of the saints.  Enjoy whatever it is you are doing.
     But please, please, Company.  Remember to be safe, alright?  If you are going to go out to dinner make sure that you have brushed up on your Heimlich skills.  You don't want a tragic incident on such a special day.  If you are going to get just blackout drunk make sure that you have a bartender who will make sure to roll you over on your side when they find you in the opposite sex's bathroom.  If you are a conspiracy theorist, make sure that you do your finger exercises before you type that treatise on your web page so you don't get a painful sprained ring finger.  It can happen.  And if you are a floral delivery person, well, make sure to have a nice comfortable place to sit down at the end of the day, because you are going to need it.
     Happy Valentine's Day everyone!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Stacking Up

     Stacking is all the rage these days, apparently.  I am being serious, Company.  My niece is involved in some sort of competitive cup stacking.  She is eight.  And she can stack and unstack red solo cups like nobody's business.  I can only flip them.  And fill and empty them of liquids, of course.  And let's not forget about Jenga.  We are Jenga-ing everything now.  But those are easy and uniform items.  Child's play I tell you.  In our everyday lives most of us deal with a far more difficult stacking issue, and we don't even bat and eyelash at it.
     The issue occurs at the grocery store, and it comes because, well, groceries are not uniform.  It would be great if it were possible.  There are heavy canned goods, there are light but bulky boxed goods, all manner of frozen goods, and don't even get me started with the fruits and vegetables.  Most of them don't even have packaging at all.  And things like bread and eggs are dentable and breakable.
     As a consequence of all of this stuff, there is sort of a hierarchy of where stuff needs to go in the cart, right?   The canned goods go into the bottom because they are the heaviest Same goes for the milk.  You don't want to get into a situation in which you have - say a can of tomato soup lying on top of your multigrain bread.  That is bad juju.  Then comes the boxy stuff because it can still support some weight.  By the time you get through all that stuff you are in the frozen and dairy areas and they can go next.  Meat and fruits and veggies go back on the top.  The bread and the eggs, of course, go into the seat where your child should go.  That child, as we all know, should remain safely locked inside your vehicle while you are shopping. (Editor's Note:  That was a joke.  DO NOT ever leave a child unattended in any vehicle.) 
     And that is the same order they teach the baggers, or at least it should be. Because of all of the same reasons.  The heavy stuff goes on the bottom.  And the same in the car, too.  The heavy stuff on the bottom of the trunk.  It all makes such perfect sense, and that is why we all do it.  Except, of course, for me.  When you are a media mogul, Company, you can just take a bigass moving truck to the store so your bags can lay out in one layer.  But you get the drift.  The heavy stuff goes on the bottom.
     Problem with all of this common sense is that the process is not laid out in a way that supports it.  You go through the store and do an awesome job loading your cart with the heavy stuff on the bottom.  Then, you roll up to the register and it is time to unload.  Well, unless you are really and overachiever, the cart is sort of a FILO affair.  That is First In Last Out.  So as you unload your items onto the conveyor belt that always makes me wonder if it is a long enough distance to really require a conveyor belt, all the light stuff goes on first.  And since it passes through the checkout person FIFO (First In First Out) all the light and breakable stuff gets to the bagger first as well.
    The problem here is that what the bagger needs first is the heavy stuff - all the cans of stewed tomatoes that are still lined up on the conveyor.  So now he has a situation where he has to flip the whole group that is coming in.  In approximately four square feet of space.  But he does it because he is a professional.  Unless it is a woman, then she does it because she is a professional.
     Now let's assume that things are in your cart correctly.  Or as correctly as the bagger gets it.  Truth be told, baggers get a bad rap, and I think that it is because of the system.  They do pretty good most of the time with the job that they are asked to do.  So let's give them the benefit of the doubt and say they get it right.  Now you have a cart loaded with the same things that you loaded in it earlier, albeit in a different order.  But the same general order.  Heavy stuff is on the bottom.  Oh, and don't forget the beer on the way bottom rack.  I seriously think they put that there just so you forget shit.  So now you get to the car and have to unload the cart.  But all of the heavy bags are in the bottom of the cart, so now you are in the same boat as the bagger was.  Except that you are mobile out in the field.  In the snow.  Maybe you live in Arizona.  Now it is a sandstorm.  And that kid you had locked in your car has probably escaped and is running around the parking lot.  Oh, and now you have a dog too.  So have fun with that.
      The point here is that the system is broken people.  All of this flipping and flopping back and forth.  Maybe we need some innovative solution like a circular conveyor belt.  Or a reversible one.  I don't know.  I am not a grocery conveyor belt expert.  I am a media mogul.  I guess that I just don't stack up.