Friday, May 15, 2009

Multi-National Collaboration

I try to buy American. OK I used to. I owned a Chevy, a Ford, a few more Chevy's, another Ford, a Dodge. But then I bought a Honda and now I own another Japanese car... I used to own a Motorola phone and I own HP computer equipment. But even if it has an American name, it's typically not made here.

Remember Mr. Rogers? My favorite part of the show was when he'd go to the crayon factory or the shoe factory or whatever other manufacturer was interesting and available. I'm sure that 90% of those companies are gone now, or at least the factory that Fred visited is now gone. It's pretty sad.

I still love watching How it's Made because I love how things are manufactured. But I just bought something today that was a little disturbing and got my mind wandering. It's actually sad, but everything is made in China. In fact my 7 year old checks stuff at the store to see where it's made, and I don't have to tell you that 99% of the time, it's China.

Hand Carved Kenyan Couple in Traditional Attire- made in China of course.

No, that's not what I bought. I'm just making a point. And of course I have a 5PM real work deadline so writing this is the worst thing for me to do, but I'll try to be brief.

Ever hear of a Vintnor's Blend variety of wine? Ravenswood makes one and it's actually quite good for an inexpensive wine.
But isn't that just a fancy way of saying "Mat Drink"? As my fellow imbibers might know, a mat drink is what you get at a bar when the bartender collects the overflow booze that spilled when he was filling shots. That means that the mat has vodka, tequila, gin, whiskey, schnapps, and whatever other alcohol was served. There might even be some beer and mixer juice as well.

If you order a mat drink the bartender picks up the mat and pours the contents into a glass for you to drink. Yummy.

So this brings me to the purpose of today's entry. I shop at a local Kroger's chain of stores called Fry's. You know Kroger? They're a national grocery store chain that has regional names like Fry's, Ralphs and Smiths. It's no Trader Joes, but it's just as good if not better than your mainstream grocery stores. So I went in to buy a few things for a BBQ we're having tommorrow and the ad said that 93% ground beef was like $1.99/lb. That's pretty good so I figured I should stock up. I get to the meat section and the butcher points out that the ones on sale are tubes of ground beef wrapped in plastic- sort of like the Jimmy Dean sausage or Pillsburry cookie dough.

Now I've never bought this format of beef but I know the store and assume that it's good quality. So I bought like 4 of these things and took them home to split into one pound servings to freeze. And that's when I noticed something. Remember, I like to buy American... but I guess some products come from other countries. Sure enough, the label of the package says "Product of U.S.A., Canada, Mexico, New Zealand AND Australia. That's right, the operative word is "AND".

So how does this work? Do they get a mix of international cows, slaughter them and ensure that there is an equal mix of each country? What happens if the Kiwi cows are running late because their ship is stuck in customs? Could I claim false advertising because my family is being gypped of our normal Nicole Kidman beef? And how do I prove this? And are the overseas cows alive on the big freighter just mooing and getting seasick? I've now got a Far Side image in my head that I can't shake with them staging a coup of the ship. Or is it a technicality since they don't clean the grinding machine regularly, so you might be getting bits of Aussie cow with your Canadian variety. And since we're being disgusting here, when you eat a chicken sandwich, you're eating one half a breast from one chicken. But the thought of multiple cows blended together is enough to make me want to hang out with Pamela Anderson... you know, for PETA purposes- I wouldn't stare at her, I'd just hold a protest sign next to her and talk about the weather.

Gotta run! We're having tacos tonight and I'm cooking!

Friday, May 8, 2009

Rekindling the Mind

So I'm self employed. That means that I work with lenders over the phone and sometimes I meet with homeowners at their homes- and that's a rarity with all the foreclosed homes out here. My social outlet is limited to my wife who has a full time job and my neighbor who shoots pigeons with his bb gun and "coach" who lets our daughter Madison out of the car when I drop her off at school- isn't that weird to be known as "coach" or the "outdoor lady" at school? But that's a topic in and of itself.

My point is that I don't have the typical work environment- nobody to talk about Manny. Nobody to talk about Obama. Nobody to talk about Afghanistan or even Paris. It's kind of depressing. But that's where the internet comes in- sort of. Whether it's message boards or Facebook or the Indian girl with Visa who is going to reverse my late fees, I try to be social with the people I interact with because I have to take what I can get. Don't get me wrong, I'm not some blathering idiot... or am I? I just get on a roll sometime because I need to have that vocal interaction. When it's my fingers doing the talking, it gives me a sense of brainpower- with deleting and drafts and a little research so I don't end up being a liar. But that's not what humans are built for. I could be butt naked at the PC with a Firefox window opened to Party Poker and another window composing a letter to Hilary Clinton, and i could end up with an articulate and beautiful document. It's really not the same is it? Not that I'm smarter than anyone (I'm not) but the fact that I can sometimes link together 3 related sentences can sort of atrophy like your apendix or ability to do 'the worm' when not given the opportunities to exercise those skills.

So my friend Neil texted me tonight. I've known Neil since Jr. High but I've told him before that I really don't remember him before Sr. year of high school. That doesn't detract from our friendship. We've had our share of running from the cops, and pyromaniac activity and crashed couches and female talks and yes even political talks. Neil is the guy who could name all 100 US senators when he was in high school... remember that guy? Exactly. Neil is the guy who ditched school with me to see Oliver North speak at Long Beach Airport. He was a Reagan Republican, just like me. We shook George HW Bush's hand.

So his text was something of the effect of "Manny is killing me". Now my baseball opinions run deep. I am still a fan of a team that doesn't exist any more. I have been very cynical of the state of baseball since 1994 (the same year that my team would have gone to the world series- the same team that groomed Randy Johnson and Larry Walker and Pedro Martinez and Vladimir Guerrero and Gary Carter and Tim Raines and Tim Wallach and... I'm exhausted and off track. where was I?)

Oh yeah, so we start bantering about steroids and baseball in general and who's to blame, etc.- all via text message mind you. And I happened to be at Uncle Bears drinking heavily for the first time in a long time. So I get my ride home and I end up calling Neil just because I needed that real connection. We start talking baseball and then we start talking about Facebook and Twitter and all the stuff that he hasn't adapted to yet. BTW, Neil is a city attorney in California, so I guess I understand why he might not want to have a profile on one of these when Joe Murderer might look him up online- but I'm a proponent of some of these social networking sights so I try to influence him (the lawyer).

Well about 20 minutes into this conversation (I'm at home by now), my daughter comes down to tell me that she's ready for me to read her stories. I love my daughter very much, and I read her stories every night. I haven't talked to my friend in probably 4 months (or anyone else for that matter about serious stuff like Facebook or Twitter...). So I'm sort of ignoring my daughter and she's getting upset. But my core needed to continue this intelligent adult conversation which was transitioning into general social topics. I'm not being rude to my daughter, just ignoring her- so minimal long term scarring...

Mom calls her upstairs- respecting my conversation, and by this time my cell gives me the "battery low" signal. But now we've moved on to political talk. So I take it outside. Oh by the way, did I mention that my Reagan-Conservative friend Neil is now an Obama Democrat? Nothing against that, but it brings a level of conversation that gets you a little more serious, a little more focussed, and a little more sober. So here's a city attorney (did i mention that he turned down an opportunity to interview for a federal prosecutor position) talking politics with someone who is on the opposite side of the political spectrum from him who is not a lawyer and has a 6 beer buzz brewing- that's what I call friendship.

So the subject and outcome of the conversation is not really relevant but I'll tell you anyway- it's the housing crisis, who's to blame, when was it started, why the rosy picture was inappropriately pumped for so long, and how stupid we Americans are for thinking about what is affecting ME right now instead of the country for the long term and how that affects elections. Since we're old friends, the conversation went without yelling but ended simply with a "my battery is dying and i have to pee. I'll talk to you later" (which probably means Septemberish). I felt good. I didn't win, Neil didn't win- that wasn't the exercise. It was more along the lines of speaking intelligently with someone and the satisfaction that the analytical part of my brain can still coordinate with the vocal and audible part- so I'm not dying yet!

Now this isn't a knock on my relationship with my wife because she is conservative like me. And I live in a conservative state so I could bring this topic up with 10 people and 9 would either agree with me or nod in feigned comprehension and I'd see right through that and be upset. But that's not the point.

We live in a society where most of us watch the evening news, read headlines and listen to what others tell us- then we have a beer, watch Lost and Scrubs and House, read a bit of a fiction book and fall asleep. Don't we owe it to ourselves to do our own objective research? Formulate our own opinions regardless of what our peers believe, and then take a stand for what we believe in? We're not all Platos and Socrates and heck I'll throw in Obamas. We're not all built for debate and confrontation. But shouldn't we be? At least a little? Or at least shouldn't we engage in these conversations whenever we can and take notes and do our own research when someone throws in a concept you don't know about? Do we all know what ACORN is? Have we all listened objectively to Rush for a full uninterrupted hour? Have we ever noted what our leaders state they will do and then compare it to what they actually end up doing (rather than listen to their revised but eloquent bullshit stance when they have failed in their initial goal)?

Here's the deal. If you have healthy political debate with peers, family and coworkers, that's awesome and I envy you. Keep it up and seek those specifically who disagree with you. Instead of trying to cram your views down their throat, listed to their views. Don't interrupt- even if they are wrong. Learn what their misperceptions might be. It's sort of like a date. If you start calling your date fat right away, then the date will end quickly and you won't get another. But if you listen instead of yapping and pawing at the other person's bra (assuming that she's female), then you might get another opportunity- and once you're married you can call her fat and you might get a shoe to the head and no sex, but you'll still be married! In the meantime, key in on what they've said and do your own research. If they said something that sounds crazy- like "Obama is not a US citizen" then do your own research. You might end up agreeing with that notion or you might learn why that's a fallacy.

It feels good to talk with people beyond "What's up? How you doing? The Suns suck. I love Guiness. That chick is hot. Alright, see you later." Let's all strive for somewhat intelligent conversation and doing what we can to get to intelligent conversation. Do you really want to be a lemming who believes what they hear or do you want to be able to vehemently profess your stance on a topic because it's important and you know in your heart that you are right?