Thursday, August 10, 2006

Messes Are Unnecess(ary)

I come home from work. The younger younger Munger has been home for a couple of hours. It appears he tried to make macaroni and cheese, and burned a full box of elbow macaroni (think about that, given how one cooks macaroni). The kitchen is a mess, and there are empty soda cans and frozen food boxes all around the microwave.

The floor is covered with dirty clothes and wet towels, in a stream from the bathroom going up the stairs toward the rooms of both the elder younger Munger and the younger younger Munger.

The yyM walks in, with four friends. They look at the mess, and look at me, and start to laugh. I can't really yell at Brian, in front of his friends. I do make him pick up the clothes and towels, throw away the trash, and generally do the things necessary to keep the EPA away.

And, then, I do the offensive tactics. Brian is probably sure I am going to do this, because none of his friends come down for over an hour. But I can wait. I have all the time in the world.

Finally, I hear footsteps on the stairs. A kid I don't even know is coming down to use the bathroom, and get a soda from the drink fridge outside.

And I am ready. I recommend this to other parents, as the counteroffensive measures necessary to get your kid's attention.

Step 1: remove your shirt. (This is not recommended for moms, as it will make the occasion a little TOO memorable for teenage boys. And if you are an in-shape guy, it won't make much of an impression. But if you are a pudge like me, it is a great start).

Step 2: Have "Conway Twitty's All-Stars: Country's Greatest Hits!" (1982) cranking on "repeat" on the CD player. Have the speakers up loud.

Step 3: While doing the dishes, dance. I mean, shake your money-maker hard. They will pay you to stop shaking it.

Step 4: Sing along, loudly, to the song that is playing. Get the words, or the tune (but not both), slightly wrong. It is important that you appear to KNOW the song.

Step 5: When the kid stops at the doorway, in horror, turn to him and say: "Hey! How are you? This is {insert your kid's name}'s favorite album!"

The kid went straight back up, to report. In about no seconds, the yyM comes running down stairs. "Dad!"

I look at him. "You know why I'm doing this..."

He shakes his head, and goes back up. Now, one can argue that, since I have done this before and the offense still occurs, it is not effective. But it is more fun than yelling, and in this case the sympathy your child gets from his friends is really genuine.

Non-Performance Non-Art

I have in the past posted about my experience with employees who needed firin'.*

Some of these I have developed into longer essays, with a moral and a happy ending.

But, today, something happened that...well, let me tell you. It put me away, speechless. No opportunity for performance art. Just stunned silence.

Had a "buy one fatburger, get one fatburger free" coupon. Stopped by the Hardee's with younger younger Munger to get our share of salt and saturated fat for the day.

I order, "One 2/3 pound vastbruger, and one monster deathburger, please!"

The poor employee (no other customers, and only one non-English-speaking cook to back her up behind the counter) rings up the order, and announces, "$14.95, sir!"

Now, the deathburger is $5.49, and the vastburger is $4.89. Buy one, get one free means you charge for the more expensive one, and get the cheaper one free. I try to point this out. She angrily shouts, "Look, you ordered two vastburgers and two fatburgers, and that costs $14.95!"

Ah, I think, honest mistake. Except then I notice she has rung up a vastburger, a fatburger, and (I'm not making up this name; I made up the other names, but this is real) a "bogoburger." The bogoburger had a price $3.68. It appeared nowhere on the menu. Presumably, "bogo" is a misspelled shortening of "bogus charge".

But, I really felt bad for the woman behind the counter. She had the shape, skin tone, and complexion of a dumpling, probably 50+, and was just confused.

So, I repeated what I actually wanted: "One vastburger, and one deathburger, please. And the coupon says buy one get one free."

She gulps, looks around, and says, "I'm sorry. That makes sense." She yells at the cook to take the other hamburger patties off the grill (!!), then goes off on some long explanation in a language that was not Spanish. The cook appeared to speak only Spanish, and so this didn't go well.

So, she comes back to the register, and rings up:

1 vastburger $0.00
1 deathburger $0.00

And says, "Well, I guess that won't cost you anything, then, with the coupon."

Younger younger Munger and I stare at her, completely frozen.

She says, "It's cheaper if I give you the free one, instead of the one you have to pay for. Don't you want to save money?"

Well, yes, that's true, I do. But... I tried one more time. "Ma'am, the coupon is 'buy one, get one free.' I have to buy one. I owe you #5.49, plus tax, which is..." (I used to work in fast food, I can do it in my head) "...$.39, which is $5.88."

"No, no!", she says. "You had a coupon. So you...OH! (pause) Oh..."

By this time, there is a guy behind me. He is peering over my shoulder; everybody loves a train wreck.

I gave up. She was just staring at me, shaking her head slightly but quickly, a "shut up and go away now, please!" look if I have ever seen one. (And, since I have received that look from MANY women, I have seen one.)

The sandwiches come up, in their little burger coffins. She bags them, and hands me the bag, with a rictus of deathwish on her face. She goes to wait on the next customer.

Now, here's the deal:

1. I stole $5.49 from Hardee's, and $.39 in sales tax from the state of North Carolina. I didn't do it on purpose, and I tried hard to pay, and the employee "gave" me the sandwiches for free. But they weren't hers to give.

2. If I go back and try to pay, she may get fired. At her age, working at Hardee's in the middle of the afternoon, she must not have a lot of other prospects. And she clearly lacked some of the basic skills needed to work in retail. "Buy one, get one free" is not a difficult concept.

3. I could write to Hardee's corporate office, and enclose a check. But we already wrote a letter to Hardee's corporate, about bad service two months ago. We got back a form letter...AND THE BUY ONE GET ONE FREE COUPON.

(*Thanks to the Texan who, when charged with killing another man, used as his entire defense the claim, "But, he NEEDED killin'." Supposedly, he was then acquited, as described in the link...)

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

....Only Fatter, and Not as Funny

I was on an AM radio show this a.m., early drive-time show. I have 4 minutes, total, including the hosts' questions. Brief, pithy, witty. Brief, pithy, witty. Brief...

With 7 seconds left, one of the hosts asks me about Hillary Clinton: "What are Hillary's chances for the Presidency?"

I check the clock, realize that there is no way to give a serious answer, and say: "Her main problem is that the First Man would spend all his time down at Denny's, trying to get the waitresses to play 'Prez and Intern'." Big laugh from hosts, promises to talk again soon, etc.

So, score one for me. How clever.

I relate this to my older son, rather proudly (being a narcissist, I am mostly proud of EVERYTHING). He stares at me.

He says, "So, you crack on Jon Stewart, who is a comedian, for ridiculing public figures. But you, a college professor, are allowed to make crude jokes about an ex-President?"

I really didn't have an answer.

He continued: "Dad, you are just LIKE Jon Stewart, only fatter and not as funny."


Reminded me of H.L. Mencken's law of self-awareness: No man can be a fool, and not know it, if he is married.

Munger's corollary to Mencken's law: No man can be a pompous ass, and not know it, if he has a teenage son.

Ach, du lieber Lieberman!

A song. (ahem.)

Ach, du lieber Lieberman, Lieberman, Lieberman!
Ach, du lieber Lieberman, you just can't win!

1. Money's gone, nomination's gone,
You just can't win, Lieberman!
Not as an independent, Lieberman,
You just can't win!

2. Office is gone, staff is gone,
But turnout rose 30 thousand.
O, my dear friend Lieberman,
They all hate you so!

3. Even that rich town Greenwich,
Voted for Ned*, which
Spent four mill of his own dollars,
And left Joe for dead!

4. Still, Schlesinger's** a nebbish,
And you've got name reCOGnish,
The polls say you might win it,
In November, if you run.

5. Now, MoveOn*** is beaming,
Howard Dean**** will be screaming!
Ach, du lieber Lieberman,
You just can't win!

(With apologies to the German folk, for using their German folk song, "Ach, du lieber Augustin" in so craven a fashion. And, check that link for the lyrics. Think of all the times you sang that in grade school....)

* Ned is Ned Lamont, now Dem nominee
** Schlesinger is Alan Schlesinger, Repub nominee
*** is a loose society of liberals who have gone over to the dark side
****Howard Dean is head of DNC

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Cat House

Hemingway's house in Key West has a bunch of cats. They aren't feral, but they aren't really tame. They live on the grounds, and are fed by the museum staff.

The street people (or they could be U.S. Congressmen; I can never tell) who sit around all day on the porch are happy to give loud recitations of names and family histories. For the cats, I mean. Their own names and family histories are more obscure.

And, of course, the cats have that strange extra toe, like a little boxing glove sticking out of their leg an inch or so above their foot. (On which I have written before, from the Cuban perspective).

ANYWAY...the cats are in danger. So, the museum is going to have to shut down, or else euthanize all the cats in order to save them.

My real point here: The problem is the thing itself! The bureaucrats (burycats?) who want to clean up this den of inequity* are just doing their jobs. The law is pretty clear. The fact that they got away with it for 40 years is no reason to suspend the law now. Equal protection means equal LACK of protection: we all get treated like crapola, because the law says so. The problem is not the bureaucrats; the problem is the law itself. You can't blame a dog for eating out of the garbage.

Nod to MG, with thanks.

*Yes, settle down, I spelled it that way on purpose

Gibler on Maps and Mapping

Doug Gibler has an interesting piece on "maps" of the middle east.

Monday, August 07, 2006


Donna Martinez has a nice piece on immigration.

I don't know if she is right, though, about her claim that "real" conservatives should support immigration reform of the kind she outlines.

Her claim is logical, I think. But I don't know what a real conservative is any more. Numerically, most people who call themselves conservatives seem to advocate imposing their own religious views on everyone else, expanding government to accomplish that imposition, and spending lots of money on foreign adventures without any source of tax revenue to pay for it.

Still, a good read.