Monday, December 20, 2010

Don't worry, I have a plan.

When my daughter was seven I was teaching her to play chess--you know, like my own dad taught me. The real reason dads do this is because it's so easy to beat a seven-year-old at chess. And I used to beat her regularly, just like my dad beat me. At chess, I mean.

Anyway, during one game she made a very ill-advised move and I (since I was trying to teach her) said, "Honey, are you sure you want to do that?"

"I have a plan," she said, smiling the sinister smile.

So she made the move and I promptly put her in check, taking her Queen in the process.

"Actually..." she said with perfect comedic timing, "...I don't have a plan."

But I do. And it's foolproof. And here it is:

I've been thinking about how to get rich in a sure-fire way. And not the praying real hard to Jesus kind-of-way, either. This plan is based on the real world, thank you very much. I'm not stupid.

But first a little background; an obvious fact that, until now, no one seems to have noticed but me. It seems that certain executives at certain financial institutions (there's only six left, I believe) regularly make salaries of several millions a year. Moreover, they get regular, annual, guaranteed bonuses of several Billion every year, regardless of how well or poorly they do. They don't do any work for it, either.

So, armed with this little-known secret, I've decided to apply for one of those jobs. I'm more than qualified. And they'd have to hire me because I want it so much. And I deserve it just as much as any of them. And I could really use a few billion dollars just about now, especially at Christmas time.

Rhonda Byrne, author of The Secret, says all you have to do to achieve your dream is to want it bad enough. And she's just about the smartest person in the world, certainly much smarter than  Also, about six million high school coaches have all said that in order to win your dream--whether it's a new bike or the State Championship--you just have to want it bad enough. It's like they all read Rhonda Byrne's book years before she had written it. If you lose, well, they guess you just didn't want it bad enough. This is the secret of The Secret.

This is how I know I'm going to get one of those twelve-figure CEO jobs: Because nobody wants it more than me...I.  When I wish for it I squeeze my eyes really extra super tight and say "really" many times in front of my prayer, so whoever it is responsible for bestowing winning lottery tickets in the universe will know how much I want it--and make it so.

That's my plan. It's beautiful in its simplicity. And it's foolproof. 

My ex-wife asked me what my backup plan was and I told her, "You never like anything I do." The irrefutable argument. That shut her up.

Then, another so-called friend also asked me if I had a backup plan (what? do these people conspire on Facebook to drag me down?). I was more patient with this friend. "To have a backup plan," I explained, "is to admit the possibility of failure. If failure is not an option, then you don't need a backup plan. And when you have a foolproof plan, such as mine, nothing can get in your way."

Her "Oh" said it all.

So, what do you want for Christmas?

Friday, December 10, 2010

Harvest these words...with extreme prejudice.

In other words; $1,000
From time to time I feel the need of all curmudgeons (or, as a friend of mine more colorfully describes persons of my persuasion, coots) to rant about certain phrases that kill our spirit and make us wonder if everyone's not insane or if it's just us (who're not insane). They are words that need to be harvested; that is to say, killed. And, to start my cootish rant, I might as well start there:

"Harvest"  when the word is used as a euphemism for killing a defenseless animal, as if the animal had no feelings, as if it were just corn. It's also used to surreptitiously finagle personal information about you, your buying habits, the websites you frequent, your sexual orientation and that of your friends, your net worth, and your immortal soul.  Data harvesting they call it. Data with your head in the hopper.

"$99.99" I have always, since I first learned arithmetic, hated this transparently manipulative insult to my computational intelligence; that the thing is somehow under $100, or $10, or $1.  So the tax break for the rich will only cost $699,999,999,999.99, not $700 billion as some Cassandras would have you believe. And getting back a penny in change just adds to the insult and makes me have to stow the penny somewhere--because its exchange rate, depending on complex market dynamics, is the same as lint. Also, when you live in one of the benighted 45 states that charge sales tax, $99.99 actually means $108.49.

"In this economy..."  which precedes a statement about why somebody doesn't want to act decisively (or pay you what they owe you). Replaced "Since 19/11..." as the limp excuse for inaction or bad behavior.

"I'll have to get back to you on that."
  Translation: "I have no clue." Alternate Translation: "I'll never get back to you on that because I have no intention of taking the effort to look into it. Furthermore, it's a stupid question and who let you in here, anyway?" (see "No problem" below).

"Can I be honest?"
  You mean, in contrast with how you usually are? Do you need my permission to break with tradition? Also I suspect that people who congratulate themselves on their honesty are really only giving themselves license to indulge in being blunt, rude, callous, and thoughtless.  The corollary to this phrase is "At least I'm being honest," which is the only virtue they can lay claim to at the moment, the telling word being "least".

"This is what I'm gonna need you to do."  This is a phrase that customer service or call center people use; like you called them to satisfy their needs. I don't care what they need me to do. Recently a Customer Service Associate at Office Depot used this expression on me when I tried to return a broken Bluetooth headset for which I had actually paid (in a moment of lunacy) for a product support plan. The terms of the plan stated clearly that if the product failed, take it back to Office Depot and the product would be replaced with a new one. No questions. Didn't say anything about me needing to do anything for them.

"Associate" A bogus title designed to give empty dignity to someone working for minimum wage and who doesn't have enough hours a week to qualify for the company benefits plan, which would cost less than the blue vest and embossed name tag, "Kyle, Customer Satisfaction Associate" he has to wear.

"Are you a member of our rewards program?"  No. I'm an outsider. A non-member. A nobody. So I guess I'm not eligible for the discounts you give every other sub-sentient, carbon-based life-form on the planet.

"Are you a registered voter?"  Precedes a solicitation to sign a petition and donate money to a cause with a wholesome-sounding name like Defense of Sleepy Puppies or Americans for Fairness, cloaking a sinister social agenda.

"Family values"
  This phrase is an old pet peeve. Nobody ever defined what those "values" mean in concrete terms. And over the decades "family values" seem to be associated with dictatorship, oppression, child abuse, restriction of women's rights, ignorance, and bigotry. Also in marketing, we all know that the very word, "value" means the opposite. If some over-priced product is touted as a "real value" we instinctively know it's worthless.

"Use only as directed"  Okay--he said, trying, without his glasses, to read the 4 point type on the back of the bottle --where are the directions, then?

"Affordable"  when used as an adjective in advertising. How do they know what I can afford? And of course they're going to say it's affordable: they're trying to get me to buy it and they don't have to make the payments on it.

"Passed" as a euphemism for dying. This has always been a milquetoast expression, betraying a cowardly  avoidance of reality. They didn't "pass" anywhere. They died. They're dead. You pass gas.

"The jury's still out."  No, it's not. The evidence is all in and all the experts have weighed in and are 99.99% unanimous. Guilty.

"Stakeholders"  as opposed to "shareholders."  This is a vague term for people who have no skin in the game but, for some cockamamie reason, are given veto power over any good idea so management or Congress has an excuse to take no action (see "In this economy" above).

"Issues" as a euphemism for complaints.

"Concerns" as a euphemism for issues. This word also means a categorical, non-negotiable rejection, especially when it's preceded by "a few..." It's frequently used by people who are too unsure of themselves to come outright and say, "Nope, I don't like it." Because then you might have "a few concerns" about them. And that would cause some issues.

"Okay?" When the word is used like a verbal snowplow at the end of every sentence, okay? Because the speaker is so doubtful of the validity of his position that he needs immediate assent from you before he proceeds, okay? But he doesn't give you time to object because he shuts down debate by saying "okay?" --giving you exactly 1.72 nanoseconds to register any such objection in the proper forum, okay? You had your chance, okay?

"No problem."  As a hipper alternative to "You're welcome." But what's wrong with "You're welcome." ?  When it's "no problem" (when you over-think it--as I do everything) it can mean that you are of so little concern to the bestower of the boon that they didn't have to discompose themselves one bit to do whatever it was you thanked them for. "No problem" is what you say to someone who apologizes for inconveniencing you. If I thank someone and they say it was no problem does that mean I can relax, they're not going to take me to court?

"Literally"  to mean "really" or "figuratively,"  as in, "I was literally beside myself."  (Unless, of course, as in my case, I was.)