Friday, April 24, 2009

Bubby R, Mama & the Birds and the Birds

"When I was a girl, maybe twelve years old, my Mama said to me, 'What is it with the red-haired boy? The one that acts like a girl?'

I say, 'Mama! He's a feygela!'

My Mama doesn't understand these things. She came from the old country. She says to me, 'What's this, a feygela?'

I explained to her how it is.

Mama says, 'Gey Avek! You are kidding. He is a boy.'

Then we walked along. 'Takka? Really?' she says.

A little while later, I hear, 'Roite. The red-haired boy. A feygela!' And she shakes her head like this.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Non-Morning Person Waiting Room Smackdown

One of my customers mentioned his wife got this Martha Stewart monthly calendar for Christmas. When to hang out your Easter egg flag. When to invite the fambo over for tiny sandwiches. When to stow away your toe peeper sandals for winter. All the important dates lined up like crisp croissants on a baking sheet.

As for himself, my customer thought the major pro of the calendar was that on one day in the spring, Martha advised calling up all your doctors and making all your appointments for the year. Meh. Not a bad idea, Martha. I told my customer I was on board with it.

I don't know why I set up an appointment earlier than the earth starts rotating. But what was done was done, so this morning, I slithered into the doctor's office at the appointed ungodly hour. First, I had a fight with the countergirl.

My insurance changed and she wanted me to fill out a bulging clipboard full of forms. Again. These boring ass forms I already filled out. At least once.

I told the countergirl that my birthday had not changed. Nor had my address, my emergency contact nor my family health history. Everything was exactly the same as the last time I cramped my hand doing her bidding. Plus why should I wearifully longhand pretty cursive out all my insurance information when, during the time it took me to tick off all the sections of the many forms which had not changed, she had photocopied my insurance card.

The countergirl remained stolidly unmoved. She stared at me soulfully. She had probably been up for hours.

I said, well, you have a photocopier, photocopy the forms I filled out the last time I was here and I will initial and re-date them.

She said, "No. I will not photocopy your forms." Overly sternly, I thought.

So I huffed back to my uncomfortable seat and wrote over the top of every section on every form, "Information Unchanged. See File." I used a .7mm rollerball.

Tom says I'm going to get a note in my permanent record.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

The Paradox: We Consider Worthless What Has Made us Rich

Pablo Picasso sits at the bar minding his own business, staring into the bottom of his Pernod snifter and trying to remember which one or more of his wives and/or girlfriends he currently lives with. Some dude rolls up and says to Picasso, "I am a great admirer of your art. Could you draw something for me?"

Picasso has some work ethic, so he answers, "Sure." He whips a pencil out of his leather European man-purse, grabs a bar napkin and spends ten minutes sketching up something. He hands it to the admirer. "That will be ten thousand dollars."

The admirer blanches speechless. Finally, he says, "But it took you ten minutes to do this!"

Picasso replies, "Yes, but it took me fifty years to learn how to do this in ten minutes. And that is what you are paying for."

What a noodler of an anecdote! Eventually, after you think about it, you understand the point is that the perfection of the end game is what counts, not how long or hard you day-labored.

I listened to one of those TedTalks today. I like TedTalks because they last a maximum of 18 power-packed minutes, which is approximately five minutes longer than my current attention span but still within a workable range. My new favorite genius is Juan Enrique and he came up with a doozie to rival Picasso.

Before the computer revolution, all the billions of Chinese and Indians supplied 40% of the world GDP. In 2007, their global percentage had dwindled to like 4.8%. That's odd because we all know that I.C.'s underpin the success of Silicon Valley. Not the Integreted Circuitboard I.C.'s, but the Indians and the Chinese I.C.'s.

Conundrum solved by Juan Enrique: it takes 3000 Americans in the U.S. to file one patent. It takes 6 MILLION Indians in India. Holy hell. Extreme Paper Pushing is bigger than Cricket out there on the sub-continent. Middle managers can wear white and sit around for 8 to 10 hour tournaments called "Meetings" or "The Approval Process" or whatever other kinds of sporty play captivates a crowd and involves as many outfielders as possible.

Obviously, it's not hands but brains, and an environment that nurtures the use of brains, that is the commodity of real value nowadays. The wisdom to come up with a way to push less paper and reach a superior end game faster. The wisdom to devise a better computer chip or better robot or more beautiful song or more thrilling movie.

And that's why I'm so disturbed by the paradox. What we are willing to pay for versus what is of value.

Take the invention of the paper clip for example. One piece of folded up metal is worth ten cents. The ingeniousness to fold it up that way in the first place is the priceless part. Right? Seriously, am I right?

Say the woman who invented the paper clip showed it to some manufacturer, who paid her ten cents for the prototype paperclip and then slyly copied out millions of paper clips and made a fortune. The manufacturer paid the woman a fair price for a piece of folded metal, ten cents. Maybe the manufacturer paid her double its value: twenty cents.

Do you believe the woman was fairly compensated? If you do, then go ahead and help yourself to your vendors' business processes or next-gen thinking. Feel free to skulk around Pirate Bay. Enjoy the tangible culminations of other people's years and decades of bloody fingers, insurance-less ill-health and single-minded focus. After all, a .doc, an .mp3, a .mov, or of any other file has an inherent value of, well, nothing; so their work is worth nothing.

Pablo Picasso was wrong.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Off the Grid with a Purple Lampshade

The little subway map I carry around in my pocket only covers Manhattan. Brooklyn is uncharted wilderness. And any time you skulk into the unknown, you really need to be hauling around a purple lampshade.

Yep, that's how I showed up at the Tarot Club meeting in Park Slope. Looking bewildered, drenched by seriously enormous rain drops, and accompanying this must-have purple lampshade. Back in Manhattan, the lampshade had seemed like a solid idea. I picked it up in the Just Shades store, which is so convenient right there on the way to the R Train stop on Prince Street. Just before the little R Train yellow route line ends suddenly at the edge of the known mapped universe.

"So who's your friend?" asked one of the tarot readers upon my tardy arrival because the R train apparently covers some distance over the river and through the wood.

I introduced my purple lampshade and took a seat. My first reading partner sported two large hoop earrings and a frilly scarf. Turns out, he does his 9 to 5 as an operations manager for the transit authority. I should have asked him for a more robust subway map but I was distracted by his wild fits of giggling.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Low Speed Mayhem in a Foot Cast:: On the Road with Pop

Dad smashed up his ankle pulling an over-cocky down a double black diamond trail. He got what looks like a rack and pinion steering system installed in his new bionic foot. Too cool for crutches, Dad elected to rent a knee-scooter. He's getting his money's worth:

"I just got back from a 3.5 miler on the scooter. I went with my friend Owen from down the street.

"Owen is a party to my scootering."

"I clocked myself at 14:46 minutes per mile. I was moving. Yesterday, I'd thought I hit my plateau at 15:04 minutes a mile. And that was a full 45 seconds faster than my previous personal record, which was the 15:49s I did last week. Owen was surprised. He had to break into a run two times to keep up with me. According to the GPS, I topped out at 7.05 mph. Going down the hill by the high school."

"Grade and road surface are key when speed is your top priority."

"I took the scooter out into my shop and adjusted all the settings. I lowered the handlebars for comfort and aerodynamics. I tightened up all the wing nuts and I sprayed Teflon on the wheel axles and the handlebar joists."

"I would wear my bike gloves and maybe my helmet, but really, what would the StyleGuy snicker about that? Street fashion concerns me. I might get one of those orange flags so I can take the scooter down Royal Road. There's a lot of traffic."

"I've scootered 28.2 miles so far. I don't track my speed when I'm scootering on errands, but I do count it toward lifetime total distance. Like today I went to the bank, the post office and the library for a total of 2 round-trip miles. But I didn't check my mph at any point."

"I don't know if the scooter was really built for distance riding. It seems to be holding up fine. Except for the tires."

Saturday, April 04, 2009

It's Not Easy Growing Up Green

I really found it embarrassing to be standing out by the side of the highway, waiting for one of the other girl scouts to roar by in the backseat of her mother's station wagon. My own mother refused to drive me up to the meetings herself. "What a waste of non-renewable fossil fuel," she proclaimed. "We live right on the way."

And so Tuesday evenings I found myself on the shoulder of Route 934 in my green sash with a pack of magic markers and glitter glue for Craft Hour. Fortunately, Beth's mom's car had a broken muffler so I had solid advance warning that my time for arm-flailing approached. When I spied her car rounding the bend, I stepped out into traffic and waited for my wood-paneled ride to slow to a roll before I made a running leap into the backseat.

I recall Beth's mom, her curly 70's afro perm kinky in the wind sucking through her rolled-down window. Glancing back, she said loudly in her annoyed voice, "If this is a carpool, why doesn't YOUR mother drive some times?"

And I remember contemplating whose mother didn't understand what was going on.