Monday, January 25, 2016

Where's Art Vandelay When You Need Him?

I’m sure a lot of people will be posting about the killer snowstorm we had here in the Mid-Atlantic last weekend.  And I already see complaints on Facebook about “Oh God, it’s just snow…”  So I’ll cover something else today.

Do architects actually use public restrooms?  That’s what I want to know, because judging from the design of our men’s room at work, I have to wonder.

As you may recall, last summer our office moved into a state-of-the-art, glass-walled, eco-friendly office building, in the ritzy part of town.  And there is much about it that is quite beautiful...
...Like the view, for instance.

We also have an “open seating” style  floor plan, which I still hate, but am getting used to.  But at the moment, it’s the men’s room that’s the bane of my existence.  There’s just no room… no buffer.  Let me explain.

To start, let’s look at the men’s room layout I came from, at our old building.  It was sweet!  Not only were there tons of stations, both stalls and urinals, but there were hardly any dudes on our floor.  It was perfect.  It was laid out like this:
I don’t remember if there were 5 stalls or 7, but you had quite a choice.  I was always partial to Stall #2 because you had to figure, Stall #1 was the prime real estate.  That one definitely saw the most action, on account of it being the furthest away from traffic.  So I’d pick the next one, which was still pretty far away, but much less frequently used.  In other words, I was far less likely to encounter some other guy’s remnants there.

The handicapped stall (5H) is also in the perfect spot.  It’s right by the door, for easy access and most people are prone to use the furthest stalls away, which leaves the handicapped stall open for anyone who needs it.

And the urinals?  They were around the corner from the stalls, so usually you barely even noticed if anyone was in a stall.  There was also a time-release bathroom spray gizmo, which kept the funk at bay.

And there were plenty of urinals, so you didn’t necessarily have to rub elbows with a guy beside you.  There was room for an empty “buffer” urinal.  Call it the Movie Seat Strategy.  You know; you never go and sit directly beside some stranger; you leave at least one buffer seat unless the theater is packed.  I think a urinal buffer is even more important because you’ve got your dick in your hand.  A guy doesn’t want to be crowded when he’s in a vulnerable position like that.

So, on to our shiny new showcase of a building… with bathrooms that are a fraction of the size of our old one, on a floor with hundreds of people on it.
There are only 3 stalls and 2 urinals.  The biggest problem is the placement of the handicapped stall; they stuck it in the most distant place.  So when someone comes in to drop a deuce, if he’s to be a good corporate citizen and avoid the handicapped stall, he can either sit in Stall #2, which guarantees that the next visitor will have to nest right next door, or to go Stall #3 and be right beside a highly used urinal.

With only two urinals, the one on the left is standard size, and the one on the right is the handicapped urinal, which is much lower to the ground.  Because I’m tall, using the short urinal is a problem because it leaves me likely to pee on the top of the urinal.  But if there’s someone bombing out Stall #3, I have no choice.  I have no intention of standing two feet away from someone who’s blasting away in there.

All the architect had to do was put the handicapped stall in the #3 position.  That would make Stall #1 the most attractive option.  And if a second guy came in to pound one out, then he could leave a buffer in the middle.

For the first several months, there was not a bathroom spray mechanism in there, and I’ll tell you, in those closed quarters, it smelled like hot death in there.  All it took was one guy and the whole room was destroyed.

They fixed that, though, although it kind of smells like someone took a dump in a fruit smoothie shop.  But it was a step in the right direction.

Not that this has anything to do with anything, but last week I was in there and all three stalls were occupied at once.  It almost looked like the starting gate of a horse race.  I wanted to set off an alarm clock bell in there and see if the doors slammed open all at once.  “And they’re off!

Anyway, all this strife is what made me change my own bathroom schedule, to ensure I rarely have to pinch a loaf at work.  (And that’s what makes that whole “fan” thing from the last post, so aggravating.)

So now don’t you wish I just wrote about the snow?

For what it’s worth, yes, we got just shy of 30” of snow here in Baltimore.  It started coming down Friday afternoon.  I had a full fridge, pantry, and liquor cabinet, so I was able to just stay home and ride it out.  Luckily I never lost power… that would have sucked.

This is from about 11:30 Saturday morning, when I went out to do an intermediate cleaning.  It continued snowing for the rest of the day.

This is what it looked like out my window, Sunday morning.  My car is that lump in the middle.

I worked from home today and am hoping that they got the sidewalks cleaned off enough downtown so that I can make my way from the subway stop to the office.  I’m not holding my breath, though.  They probably just pushed the snow from the roads, onto the sidewalks.  I ought to pack some snow shoes.

But if I have to work from home again, at least I know I won’t have to share the bathroom.

Director’s DVD Commentary: I know I shouldn't have to explain this, but if you’re puzzled about the reference in this post’s title, it comes from Seinfeld.  Whenever George Costanza needed an alter-ego or fake identity, he said he was architect Art Vandelay.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Odd Bits - The Dropping Like Flies Edition

Sorry I didn’t post last night… I was thrown off by a bathroom fan.  I probably should explain.

My apartment complex posted a sign on the door last week, saying that they would be sending over electricians on Thursday or Monday, to fiddle around with our outlets.  I wasn’t sure if they were here Thursday or not, but I realized they weren’t when they showed up about 5 minutes after I got out of bed on Monday.  (My office was closed for MLK Day.)

So, they had to shut the power down and get to their fiddling.  It was fine with me; I had my paper to read and the crossword puzzles to do, so I would be occupied.

About 45 minutes later, they packed up and left, presumably to another apartment in my building.  I looked around and didn’t see anything awry until I went into the bathroom.  When I flipped the light on, both the light and the fan came on.  There is a separate on/off switch for each… or at least there used to be.

At first, I thought maybe the made a mistake, but when I checked my other bathroom, it was the same way.  No way could that be a mistake.

It pissed me off because I don’t want the freakin’ fan going every time I go in the bathroom. There are only two activities in which I require the fan: using the can and taking a shower.  When I go to take a leak, or clip a fingernail, or take some medicine, or brush my teeth or get myself ready to leave the house, I don’t need the damned fan.

In the mornings, I’m trying to listen to the radio or TV while I’m in there.  The fan is essentially a big white noise generator, so I can’t hear anything else until I turn it off.

So I kept an eye out for when the electricians were done with the other apartments, and stopped them on their way out the door.  They told me they were instructed by apartment management to make that bathroom fan switch and there was nothing they could do about it.  They said, “Even though nobody likes it, we have to do it.”

I let them go because I know it wasn’t their call, but now I was seriously pissed, because before they left my place, I asked them what they were doing.  All they told me was that they had to “check the outlets that hadn’t been checked the last time,” whatever that means.  So that told me they purposefully omitted the whole bathroom fan switcheroo, no doubt hoping they could make a break for it before anyone noticed.

I’ve now been spending time considering what to do about it.  I’m pretty sure complaining to the landlord won’t do any good; they’ve already made a call and already know it’s unpopular with their tenants.  I do wonder why, though.  Is it a safety thing?  Are they trying to eliminate a growing mold problem?

Anyway, judging from how quickly they had it done, I’m betting it’s a really simple thing to undo.  I figure one could just take the wire off of one switch and attach it to the other.  Not that I’d try it myself, mind you.  But I have a friend whose husband is an electrician.  Maybe we can work something out.

Anyway, the whole thing kind of put me out of the writing mood yesterday, hence the Tuesday post.

The Dropping Like Flies Department
What the hell is going on with 2016 celebrity deaths?  Geez, they’re dropping like the temperature did last weekend.  I know these things are supposed to go in threes, but where do you start?  I’m counting five in the last two weeks.

First was Lemmy Kilmister, from Motorhead.  I was never a big Motorhead guy, but I understand that Lemmy was a hero to a certain generation of metalheads.  I like a song or two that he does, so I was mildly bummed.

(By the way, the name “Lemmy” comes from his penchant for saying, “Lemme a fiver, will ya?”  Or “Lemme a cigarette.”  The more you know…)

Then David Bowie passed and Facebook went nuts.

I never cared for Bowie at all.  As you know, I’ve always liked my music with a little more crunch to it.  Wasn’t into the glam thing at all.  And I never understood why he had to have all these personas.  I was like, “For fuck’s sake, pick a personality and stick to it, will ya?

I remember when I was in college, his big comeback album “Let’s Dance” was inescapable.  I found it mildly tolerable but was still not a fan.  At least he gave Stevie Ray Vaughan a chance.  (I just didn’t know that at the time, of course.)

So I was pretty “Meh…” over Bowie.

But then we got word about Alan Rickman. 

Shit. Low blow, man. Hans freakin' Gruber?  Hans can't be killed unless he's dropped out a high-rise window!

Rickman created the first villain I ever saw who was as compelling as the hero.  He was so slick in “Die Hard,” you almost wanted him to get away with it.  Did you know it was Rickman’s idea for him to wear a suit, as opposed to a “terrorist uniform?”  He said Hans might need to blend in with the hostages, which led to his sequence with the American accent.

Professor Snape, from “Harry Potter?”  Rickman did more with dramatic pauses than most actors can do with an Oscar-winning script.

One of his often overlooked roles was The Metatron, (aka the Voice of God) in Kevin Smith's "Dogma." He was unexpectedly hilarious in that role. (Granted, it's unexpected if all you knew of him at the time was his part in "Die Hard.")

Happy trails, Hans. I hope you're somewhere "sitting on a beach, earning 20%.”

I saw a quick notice that Dan Haggerty, who played “Grizzly Adams” on a TV show in the 70s, also passed away last week.  Again… “meh.”  I liked the show at the time, but that was so long ago, I barely remember it.  Or him.

And now, this weekend, Glenn Frey of the Eagles, passed away. 

Now who would have ever thought Glenn Frey would fail to outlive Joe Walsh?

Yeah, it’s sad. The Eagles had a tremendous run of light rock classics.  They were a little light for my taste, but you couldn’t deny the talent and their harmonies were unreal.  My friend the Carpetbagger said that without Glenn Frey, there would not have been a “Beverly Hills Cop,” to which I added, “or Miami Vice.”

I saw Glenn Frey open for Tina Turner, back in the early 80s.  I had his first solo album, which was called:

That’s a close-up shot of a promotional button from the record company.  (What? Of course I still have it.)

He had this song on it I liked, called “Partytown,” which had kind of a Chuck Berry vibe to it.

I got sick of my job, sick of my life,
Sick of my future and sick of my wife.
I packed up the car and I got some gas.
Told everybody they could kiss my ass.

I’m going ta Partytown… (Yeah Yeah.)
They really party down.  (Yeah Yeah.)

So… Lemmy, Bowie, Hans Gruber, and Glenn Frey are gone, but Keith Richards lives on. 

There’s probably a lesson in there, somewhere.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Debunkery - The Loophole Leap of Logic

Saw another ridiculous meme on Facebook last week… actually, there were several; most were versions of this:

Easiest debunking ever, for the simple reason that no one ever said, “If we pass more gun laws, crime will go away.”  Obama didn’t say it, gun opponents don't say it, no one with a functioning brain would ever say it, but here it is on a conservative meme.

See, it’s the oldest debating trick in the book… reduce your opponent’s position into something preposterous and then attack it as if it’s what your opponent believes. 

You know what made Jon Stewart such an effective advocate?  He didn’t just tell you about some stupid shit people said, he’d show you them saying it.  And THEN he’d pull it apart like an Oreo Cookie, and roast the gooey center inside.

I look forward to the day when there can be a serious discussion about guns in this country.  But that time is not now… and probably not ever.  Because even the baby step of requiring background checks is being met with such ferocious opposition full of bluster and hyperbole, and precious little substance.

Can someone tell me what it is that’s so special about gun shows? Why do they get a pass on doing background checks and legitimate gun shops don’t?  It can certainly be done.

And for that matter, what possible reason could there be for just about every single Republican in the Senate vote against requiring background checks include the terrorist watch list and no-fly list?  I haven’t heard a single legitimate reason behind that.  Not one… probably because there aren’t any.  But it still got voted down, didn’t it?

Thus is the power of the NRA.

Did you see any of the footage of Congressmen and women getting up on the floor of the House and railing against gun show background checks?  My God, they sure made a sight, one after another, condemning the President for abusing authority, undermining freedom and coming to take their guns away! 

CSPAN should have had a graphics package under each speaker’s name, showing how much the NRA had contributed to their last campaigns.  Then we could see exactly who they were performing for.

Oh, and by the way… all this “Obama the Dictator, abusing his power” bullshit?

If you really think this president is some kind of self-governing despot who’s running around mad with power, you’re too stupid to have me take your opinion seriously.  The facts overwhelmingly show that you’re wrong.  Not that it ever stopped Fox “News” or any of the ninnies they whip into a frenzy.

It’s the same logic that allows Republicans to continue beating the Benghazi drum for years while completely ignoring the 11 Embassy attacks under GW Bush.

I’ve said my piece on assault weapons before, and on the general gun-mania in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting, so I don’t really have much to add.  The President enacted a mild piece of executive action that might make it a little harder for criminals, terrorists and whack jobs to get their hands on rapid fire killing machines.  It won’t fix everything, not by a long shot.  And it will probably be reversed by the next GOP president.

I’d call it a good first step if I thought there were going to be any more steps.  But there won’t be.  If this country couldn’t be moved to come up with some common sense rules for gun ownership after a room full of 6-year olds was slaughtered, I’m afraid there’s nothing left to shock people out of their gun lust.

There’s only one Constitutional right that anyone cares about anymore, and that’s the 2nd Amendment.  All the others seem to be afterthoughts.

Director’s DVD Commentary: You might have noticed that I used a number of memes myself in this post.  Yes, I did, and I used them because they’re strong, on point and not loaded with logical fallacies.  See, it can be done.  Granted, it helps if you’re trying to make a valid point.

Monday, January 4, 2016

A Life of Temporary Leisure

I always hate that first work day after the New Year; not because it’s the beginning of the work year, but that I’m coming off a long vacation.  (You may weep for me now.)

After I do whatever it is I’m going to do to use vacation time during the year, I use whatever I have left to take the week after Christmas off, and use any other remaining days to take Fridays off preceding Christmas.  Our company gave us Christmas Eve off, so I had a solid 11 days off to end the year.  Before that, I had five 4-day weeks.

Needless to say, dealing with a 5-day week now is jarring.  I think I should only work two days this week.  Then 3 the next week, and then 4 more 4-day weeks.  And THEN, I’ll be able to deal with a full week.  You can’t just go cold turkey… you should be able to build back up to it.

I mean, 3:00 today, I was dying for a nap.  Maybe I can sneak a sleeping bag into one of our “focus rooms.”

So; 11 days with no kids, no house projects, nowhere to be and nothing I had to do.  You probably wonder how I spent my time.

Yep, I did a lot of nothing.  Naps, watching sports and movies, enjoying some cocktails… that was my vacation.  Mostly.  I look at this year’s end vacation as the tasty dessert after a long year of eating crap sandwiches.  Last year, I was sick almost the entire time I was off.  At least this year, I got that out of the way a couple weeks ago.

My time off had a lot of nothing, but not ONLY nothing.  I did get a couple of things done.  I fact, I tried to accomplish at least one constructive thing each day.  No, it wasn’t anything you’d call “taxing,” but I got to clean out a lot of stuff that was cluttering up my mental To Do box.

Like shredding.  I keep all my bills and utility statements for about 6 months, or as long as it takes my bill holder (re-purposed acrylic napkin holder) to fill up.  Once it fills up, I store the material and shred the previous 6-month wad of invoices.  I was afraid my bill holder was going to crack from the overstuffing, so I’d been meaning to get to the shredding.  Done… ding!

My kitchen faucet nozzle collects grit over time, which makes the water come out in different directions.  I used this opportunity to unscrew the nozzle, clean out the grit, and reassemble, to restore a nice, clean stream of water.  Done… ding!  Also, I had to use pliers.  Tool use… ding!  Extra credit.

I have a water-resistant windbreaker I wear to work frequently, but it’s starting to not resist the water quite so well.  So I bought a waterproofing spray online about 2 weeks back.  Last week, I treated 2 windbreakers, my winter coat, gloves, and my Penguins “rain hat.” (Meaning it was nylon and far less absorbent than my other cloth hats, so I wear it on rainy days.)  I don’t know how well it works yet, because naturally, it hasn’t rained since. 

I figure it’s the umbrella effect.  It never rains anytime I bring an umbrella or rain gear.  If you’re reading from the Mid-Atlantic area, you can thank me for the clear skies we’ll be having until at least April.  So, waterproofing… Done.  Ding! 

I installed a movie database app on my iPad a while back and I’ve been manually entering the data from my Excel list of DVDs.  Last week I was able to finish it.  Now it will be easy to keep up, just adding anything new.  I was hoping the data on the iPad would automatically load to the same app on my iPhone, but no such luck.  I originally wanted the data on my phone, so I could consult it in stores if I couldn’t remember if I already had a movie (or more likely, a particular season of a TV series).  Data entry… Done.  Ding!

I went out to see the movie “Sisters,” with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler, the weekend before last.  (I know it’s not exactly a chore; just an activity for the day.)  Anyway, I loved it.  As you know, I think Tina Fey is a goddess, and she and Amy together are gold.  I laughed my face off.  It was like a Judd Apatow/Seth Rogan movie, only with Tina and Amy in it instead, (plus everyone from SNL they ever worked with).  They must have loved not having network Standards and Practices lurking over their shoulders.

Even with Star Wars out, and Hunger Games and other highly publicized films out, the theater showing Sisters was crowded.  Whole middle section was densely populated… with women, mostly.  I only saw about 2-3 other dudes.  Movie I wanted to see… Done.  Ding!

And speaking of movies, I assembled and photographed my annual ticket stub collage.  (I did one last year, so doing another one now makes it annual.  In my family, anything you do more than once becomes a sacred tradition.)  Stub collage… Done.  Ding!

I mentioned the Orioles stats and other sports events attended this year in the last post, but I forgot to mention the ten movies. There was Sisters, plus:

Mockingjay Pt 1 (OK, that was from 2014. The stub must have jumped piles.)
Ted 2: Even more vulgar than the original; funnier too.
Terminator Genisys: Loved it.  A terminator movie with a happy ending?  Go figure.
Mission Impossible – Rogue Nation: Action packed and exciting.
Ant-Man: More light-hearted than the recent Marvel Comic fare.
The Martian: Also exciting and well done.
Mockingjay Pt 2: Loved it. Hits all the plot points from the book and puts a bow on the series.
Creed: Loved it. Rocky is more interesting as an old man.
Star Wars – The Force Awakens: Just wrote about that two posts ago, but loved it.

I had one kinda big project this week… not that it was strenuous or anything… it only strained my wallet.  Had to get a new set of tires.

As you may recall, I bought a 4 new tires last January, and then before a month went by, my car died and took the tires with it.  The 2013 Chrysler 200 I got in February still had its original tires.  I’d only taken them out in the snow once, and it scared the life out of me.  It was like I had no control at all.  (And I’m from the Midwest.  I know how to drive in the snow.)

So I wanted to replace the tires before we got any serious weather this winter. I thought it would be a simple in-and-out, but the tire shop didn’t have anything in my size.  He had to order them, to come in the next day.  Which they did.  So… Tires acquired.  Ding!

Usually, when I come home from work, I’m not in the mood to cook anything “involved.”  (Meaning: more steps than “microwave for 90 seconds.”)  But this week, I had time on my hands.  Early in the week, I made a roasted pork loin with red potatoes.  So that made two dinners.

You know, the fun thing about living alone is that you can stick a kitchen fork in the pork loin and eat it like corn on the cob.

“Fork Loin!”

Over New Year’s weekend, I got the hankering for pasta, and so cooked up the First Spags of the Year.  Because I like to cook in a clean kitchen, I Swiffered the floors twice; once dry, once wet.  Also ran a Clorox Wipe across all the counters and stovetop.  Luckily the will to clean passed before I could get too caught up in it.  But I did produce this:

FYI, it is much harder to keep a giant ball of spaghetti on a kitchen fork without it falling off.

It was awesome, although I had one small hiccup.  I’m not used to having very many spices on hand, so when I thought I was adding a half-teaspoon of nutmeg, it was actually turmeric.  I tried to counter it with a little extra of the spices I DID intend to put in and it seemed to work.  Had some for dinner tonight and will probably finish it up tomorrow.  Feasts... accomplished.  Ding!

I’m not usually a party animal on New Year’s Eve, but I didn’t feel like staying in this year.  Instead, I went out to my usual sports bar to watch the end of the Pens game, and the Michigan State/Alabama game.  At first, there were some regulars there whom I knew, but they didn’t stay long.  Once they took off, there wasn’t anyone left but couples.  Old couples.

I ended up leaving around 11:00.  The only thing worse than sitting home alone on New Year’s Eve is sitting out in public, alone, when the ball drops.  It also wasn’t a bad idea to get off the road and home before the cops start setting up checkpoints.  No need to get caught up with all the amateurs.

And aside from seeing my brother and his family on Christmas and New Year’s Day, that was basically that… How I spent 11 days doing just enough to not grow moss on my north side.

Next weekend: The tree comes down.