December 28, 2007

Costco

(For your convenience, I've decided to fill this with Wikipedia links.)

Don't get me wrong, I like Costco. There are lots of things to like about it. Them. Itthem.

I like that I can go there and basically be fed an entire meal of free samples.
I like 30-packs of dress shirts and obscenely large tubs of mayonnaise. I like that I can buy them, and get new tires in the same store.
I like their assortment of cheeses.
I like that, for the most part, the people who work there know how to help you.
I like their lower drug prices, since I don't have insurance.

The whole buy-in-bulk philosophy is funny to me. Generally, you don't need to shop at Costco unless you have a huge family or run a cafe or something. You can buy very large sacks of rice there. I had a roommate last year who had a membership. He would go there and get vast amounts of food, and he was a single guy. He was always willing to share, but he bought things that no one else in the house really wanted. I remember he bought a very large tub of pierogies. Pierogies are always a bit of a disappointment to me, they look delicious but turn out to be subpar. Anyway, we didn't help him with them and I think they all went bad. He would also come home with packages of 36 apples, large quantities of eggs, and very large milk jugs, none of which did we assist him in consuming. So a lot of his groceries went bad. If you're in charge of feeding yourself, don't buy large quantities of things that go bad.

I do not like being an outsider. Some time ago, I got my mother a membership there, and put the second card in my dad's name. For the most part, I was free to come and go with their membership card, and no one asked questions. All the while, I knew I was getting away with something. Then one day it all fell apart. They carded me, and I failed to prove I was Sharon Gamble. Still, they were gracious enough to let me make my purchases and let me go. A guy in a suit confiscated my dad's card and told me he could get it back next time he came in. Presumably, they drew a frowny face on it and pinned it to a naughty customer bulletin board somewhere.

I still have to go to the pharmacy there, and ever since they took away my dad's card it feels like I'm trying to get into a club I'm not good enough for. They position their guards (fifty year-old woman guards) at the door, and make you show your card. One time I went to visit their cell phone counter, and they sent a babysitter with me to make sure I didn't ogle their merchandise without permission. She thought it was ridiculous, too. I don't like the idea of having bouncers at retail places. Then again, if I was an actual card-entitled member, I'd probably like that very much. Gotta keep out the sample-grabbing riffraff. Nothing makes me feel more important than entitlement.

December 20, 2007

Jim Learns About the Business World

I got fired on Wednesday.

I was going to write a long rant about this, possibly saying some negative things about my employer, but the simple truth is that I was let go six days before Christmas, just over a week away from wrapping another issue of our publication. I got a note yesterday that said my position was no longer needed. The publication I worked for is going to operate with four salespeople, an owner, and no editor. How they're going to accomplish that isn't up to me. The economy in Michigan is bad, particularly affecting people who advertise with them. The cynic would say, I lost my job because other people weren't able to do theirs, that is, sell ads. Maybe. But I'm really not bitter about this. I knew I wouldn't stay there forever.

This opens other doors for me. I'll get another job, a better one, and I'll be okay. Now, when people ask what I do for a living, I can go back to saying I'm just a pizza man. And for now, that's okay with me.

Besides, I get to sleep in now.

December 19, 2007

This is why we need to be smarter about international aid:

Link: Uganda Leader to Get Second Jet and Zimbabwe is Still Messed Up.

You can collect as much for UNICEF as you want.
You can send as many checks to the Red Cross as you want.
You can buy as many (Red) Campaign shirts and jeans as you want.
You can join as many Save Darfur facebook groups as you want.
You can write as many email-bombs to senators as you want.
You can take as many save-the-orphans "Mission trips" as you want.

But until there is accountability in Africa's leadership and change in their infrastructure, their problems aren't going away.

December 16, 2007

Arguing

It is more fun to wonder about things than to be right. That's one of the reasons I call this "Naive Jim:" It absolves me from any responsibility to be right. (In a similar way, taking on a journalistic tone of writing as opposed to a poetic or prosaic tone absolves me from the responsibility of being deep. It's much easier to not try to be deep.) I pretty much have free reign to espouse any opinion or idea, no matter how ridiculous, because I readily admit to my own naivety. You know exactly what you're getting: One dude, just kinda wondering stuff. No one can come down on me because, hey, I'm just a naive guy. If you admit from the start that you're an ignoramus, things aren't so bad. You'll notice in real life, if you're proven wrong about something, saying, "I guess you're right," is the best way to diffuse the argument, and it can really frustrate someone looking for an argument if you give it up right away. At least it would do that for me.

For example, the other day during lunch a co-worker was doing a crossword puzzle. She needed to know how to spell Tae, as in Tae Kwon Do. I asserted that it was T-A-E, and I was right. Everyone else at the table flatly insisted it was T-A-I. I reminded them that I was the editor, and quickly broke out a dictionary - okay, not a dictionary, it was Wikipedia on a computer - and saw that it was, in fact, Tae. Wikipedia is, of course, a 100% reliable source. Very proud of my rightness, I shared my finding with everyone there. They were not impressed, and their accolades toward me were minimal at best. I don't know what I expected. I am seldom provably right in arguments. Odds are, if you argue with me about pretty much anything, you're going to win. I have lost a lot of arguments, and I can tell you that the most satisfaction comes not from the few that I have won, but the few that I have conceded easily. Because when we argue, being right is inevitably a pretty big letdown. At least it is to me. You reach an equilibrium, and the disagreement is usually forgotten almost immediately. How many times have you brought up an old, insignificant argument to emphasize your personal value? Probably not very often. "Dude, remember that one time you told me that Taco Bell would still be open and I told you I was pretty sure it wasn't and then we drove there and it was closed and I was right?" Only once have I used past argument-triumph to emphasize my coolness, and that was in this paragraph. And my coolness is well-established away from this victory.

For Amy, I'm sorry that it took me 11 days to come up with this. I've been meaning not to neglect the old blog. But I can only come up with stuff as truly inspired. You don't want perfunctory, uninspired blogging now, do you? I have a lot of ideas, religious ones, that I'm kicking around, and you'll probably see them soon. Turns out I'm a supralapsarianist.

December 5, 2007

The Golden Compass Boycott


The notice showed up in my facebook inbox a few days ago. A friend had invited me to join the group “Do NOT Support The Golden Compass.” I noticed that several of my friends had already joined. Now, I am very particular about the groups I join on facebook. I have to be absolutely sold on a particular ideology before I align myself with it (See: Pudding is Awesome, It’s Funny When Old Ladies Swear, Backpacks on Wheels are NOT COOL, etc.) Now, I had no intention of seeing the movie, more out of disinterest than religious zeal. I had seen the previews and the posters, and it appeared to me to be another big-budget ($180 million) rehash of a children’s novel (one I’ve never read), a convenient way for a movie studio to cash in at Christmas time.

So I decided not to join. But I did look into why people were upset about it.

Turns out, The Golden Compass is the first book of religious skeptic Philip Pullman’s trilogy His Dark Materials. (If the compass is, in fact, golden, Mr. Pullman, is it not shiny? How, then, can it also be dark? What do you think of that? Unless it’s tarnished gold. Or “dark” as in evil. Hmm. Touche, Mr. Pullman.) From what I’ve read, the book portrays religion and clergy as evil or in the very least, nasty, and his idea of the afterlife doesn’t line up with Christianity’s vision of heaven. In the final book, so I hear, the god-figure is unveiled as a fraud, and gets killed by children. But, like I said, I haven’t read any of these so I don’t know a whole lot about it.

So, there you see, why some people are getting all hot-and-bothered by yet another controversial kids book/movie with unchristian religious themes. Their problem is with the soft sell: Kids will watch the movies, which may or may not be watered down and “safe” versions of the books. Then, they’ll want to read the books and will hate the church and the whole generation will go to crap and all the kids will become atheists. After all, children are fragile little things, always teetering right on the edge of pursuing devil-worship. And, as we all know, ever since Harry Potter came out, there’s been an epidemic of pre-teen sorcery. I guess we’ll have to start over with the next batch of Sunday-schoolers.

Really, that’s what it amounts to: Allowing kids to see this movie will doom an entire generation to the fires of Hades. Better to not let them see it at all than to subject them to it and have to talk to them about it. Sometimes we Christians aren’t big fans of dialog. Are we afraid? Is that what it is? Since when did a movie threaten our eternal securities? Since when did we not like conversation, and questions, and doubt, anyway? I thought God was bigger than that stuff. I thought God was bigger than my doubts (and the boogeyman, Godzilla, or the Monsters on TV), that He was bigger than some story by an atheist. This is just one more thing to tell kids not to touch, and by doing so to make them curious about it.

In the last few days, the anti-Golden Compass movement has gotten ample press. (See: CNN.com) What, exactly, is the message we want to send with a boycott? That we, as Christians, have the buying power to squash movies we disagree with? Or is it that we have an endless supply of things to get uptight about? Or is it that we're afraid?

December 4, 2007

Special: Hip-Hop Videos of the 90s, Volume 1

Starting today, continuing periodically, and ending whenever I run out of gas, I'll be sharing something I've held private for a very long time: My love for 1990s hip-hop videos.

Most people don't know this, but Flavor Flav was a sex symbol and fashion icon long before The Surreal Life and Flavor of Love. His previous career as a rapper is, of course, dwarfed by his modern achievements on VH1's reality repertoire, but he has nevertheless been extremely influential as the musical genius flanking Chuck D in Public Enemy. Flav and D, along with Terminator and Richard "Professor Griff" Griffin, assembled a supergroup which, James Lipton would agree, by comparison reduces the collective works of Bach, Beethoven, and Mozart to childish rubber-band plunkings.

Today I present you with something not aptly described by "masterpiece," as it is so much more, Public Enemy's "Give it Up."


The things I love about this video:
-The earth shattering special effects, and the seemless California-Raisin-ish claymation.
-Pretty much everything Flavor Flav does, especially wearing a rain-coat in the sunshine.
-The brief parodies of gangsta videos and suburban rap
-The ability of the ever-watchful benevolent Public Enemy to rescue a child from an evil dude in a mask, and the positive message of the kid rejecting a 40 of Malt Liquor. Then, the evil dudes turn into books.
-Claymation Bill Clinton, dollar signs in his eyes, physically impeached by Public Enemy via yanking from the lid of the US Capitol Building.
-Rappers playing chess in the park
-The complete absence of rap vide-hos.

November 30, 2007

Sudan

Sigh. So much happening in the world today.

No doubt you've heard about the British teacher who let her class name a teddy bear. Most of the time, such an undertaking doesn't result in 15 days in jail and deportation. Nor does it often inspire an angry mob to mass with clubs, swords, torches, and effigies in hand to demand your immediate execution and make sure the world knows their bloodlust isn't satisfied by 15 measly days in prison. But when you add Sudan and radical Islam to the equation, and when your class chooses the name "Muhammed," it's really not all that surprising.

To summarize: Teacher with British accent goes to Sudan, allows kids to name Teddy Bear, people promptly demand her execution.

I'm wondering how this went from a classroom vote to an international news story. Did they publish the results in the class newspaper? Did some kid go home and tell his mom, and did she promptly raise a concern at a PTA meeting? "Well, Far be it from me to raise a stink, everyone, but little Jamaal Bin-Sayiid came home today and told me - oh it was just awful - that Miss Gibbons let them name the class mascot Muhammed!"

Oh, right, mom doesn't really have a voice. Whatever happened, I'm sure the Teacher is probably thinking, "I knew I should have stuffed the ballot box for 'Abdul'." By the way, there are an awful lot of parents who should be facing the same punishment as Miss Gibbons - or worse - because they named their kids Muhammed too.

Now, all of this is completely irrational and I should be shocked by it, but I'm not. I want very badly to give radical Islam the benefit of the doubt, and see their side of things. Usually, I can make enough room for just about any religion to be as crazy as they want. (Which doesn't mean I think they're all right. At the risk of being politically incorrect - They aren't.) Buddhists - all of those steps to enlightenment? Guess that's logical. Hindus - Need more gods than can be counted to handle all their business? Yeah, well, okay. Want to worship a thunderstorm? Yeah, it's big and powerful, go ahead if that's your thing. But this, demanding the execution of anyone who accidentally doesn't take you seriously, that I can't wrap my little brain around. I want to believe she really did something terrible. But I find myself dealing with the all-too-familiar response to radical Islam in the news. "Angry mob? Swords? Clubs? Effigies? What happened this time?" I'm just not surprised to see a crowd of psychopaths in that part of the world swarming, screaming, and burning things in the name of their peaceful religion. After all, these are the same kind of people that put rape victims in jail.

Sadly, irrational and violent outcries seem to be the norm with that sect of Islam in that corner of the world. Now, there are tons and tons of good Muslims who don't want to kill anyone. I don't know any good Muslims, and I don't know any radically violent ones. I don't know any Muslims. So I'll try not to make any ignorant blanket statements. But the religion as a whole isn't doing a very good job of branding themselves.

I can't begin to imagine freaking out because some kid named a teddy bear Jesus. I've put up with the Buddy Christ, with Jesus the t-shirt icon, and all sorts of slander against Jesus Christ. And he really was God. Muhammed, even in the context of their religion, was a prophet and wasn't part of any trinity. And somehow naming a beloved toy after him is blasphemy, punishable by death.

Violence is not unusual in Sudan. For a long time, it was the Arab Sudanese Muslims trying to exterminate the African Sudanese Christians. That fire went out, or at least seems to have subsided for now. I don't understand the specifics of it. But now, in Darfur, it's the Arab Sudanese Muslims from the north trying to exterminate the African Sudanese Muslims in the southwest. Aren't they supposed to be united under Allah or something? When I worshiped with African Christians, one of the things that struck me was that Heaven isn't going to be full of white people (and as a result, might be a lot more lively), as I had always pictured it. Apparently, not every religion is able to picture it that way.

It is so hard to understand how people can massacre another group of people, and then deny that what they're doing is wrong. They have to love death, they have to have bloodlust. Isn't this is a clear example of evil in the world? Isn't this a clear deviation from the plan of God? Death and evil appear to be alive and well in a place where Islam has prospered. I am led to believe that their god is not one of love and life, but of hate and death.

November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving

I love Thanksgiving. It is the perfect holiday.

We gorge. We watch football. And it's always on a Thursday.

Thursday has nothing going for it, it's an unspectacular day. There isn't a whole lot to say about Thursday, and that's why it should get Thanksgiving. And. And! Because we put it on a Thursday, we get Friday off, too*! It's just not worth it to go into work on Friday. Friday is a bonus day. It's recovery day. A Thanksgiving wouldn't work on a Wednesday - we can't justify two bonus days. For the same reason, Tuesday is out of the question. Monday is outright, it doesn't deserve a holiday. Friday, Saturday, and Sunday are already the weekend, and there's no reason to give a put a holiday on the weekend. So Thursday is the ideal day. We embrace the four-day weekend. And I can't find any historical reason why it's on Thursday other than Presidents generally decreed that it be on Thursday. And we know that if the President decrees it, it must be okay.

Also, the Lions get a Thanksgiving game to lose every year. As Lions fans, we get a chance to allow fans of other teams to enjoy a win.

Another good thing about Thanksgiving: It's pretty much the same meal every year. Turkey, Taters, stuffing, cranberries, pie. (Pie! I consider Pie to be a leader in the field of dessert innovation.) It's consistent. And, as far as I know, we pretty much all agree that it's a good meal. My mom has never screwed up thanksgiving. I can't remember ever having a good thanksgiving meal. There are plenty of options for the vegetarian crowd, too.

And don't come at me decrying the injustice of all of us gorging. We're supposed to do this. The NIV has 140 mentions of feasts. This, and I'm convinced God agrees, is a day for celebration and delicious food, without any guilt. People in the Bible party. We should too.

*78 percent of people get the day after Thanksgiving off. If you aren't one of them, I'm sorry. [link]

November 18, 2007

What the...?

I just saw a commercial for Toyota Tundra.

While I think their campaign is alright, I have to question who they're really selling to.

The ad I just saw featured a bunch of characters playing world of warcraft and casting spells and doing whatever it is you do when you play world of warcraft. One guy switches his weapon to a Toyota Tundra, and quickly slays a dragon. Goes down like this: Dragon eats truck, truck is too awesome, dragon overcome by awesomeness, gets beheaded somehow. I support the killing of dragons. I don't know why we're not doing more to kill dragons.

But the problem is, guys who play world of warcraft don't drive trucks. If they do, they aren't the type of people to go out and buy a new truck. They drive old cars and live in their parents basements. (Not all guys who drive old cars and live in their parents play world of warcraft. Case in point: Me.) The cars they do drive, they outfit with rebel alliance decals and pile up empty Mountain Dew Game Fuel bottles in the backseat (which no one ever rides in.)

Another commercial I find, to say the least, disagreeable: That Beyonce commercial where she wants to let us upgrade to DirecTV.

Commercial I find not disagreeable, (in other words, agreeable):

November 17, 2007

The Grand Rapids Art Museum

Tonight, I visited the Grand Rapids Art Museum.

(By the way, I'm writing this while I'm sleepy.)

Now, I usually think of myself as one of the last people who should be visiting an art museum. The first couple floors mostly confirmed this - chairs (which makes sense, GR is the furniture city) and abstract stuff. There was a giant closepin, and the museum's iconic piece is supposed to be a giant parallelogram, the top half is blue and the bottom half is white. That's about it. Kinda looks like an eraser or a crooked pregnancy test. They were dispensing alcohol (not free) near the door, presumably to help people make sense of all of this.

I think they put a couple of security guards on Josh and I, because there seemed to be one with us at all times. I was thinking, why us? In addition to being the least qualified person to judge art, I was probably also the least psychotic, the least likely to cause a scene. There were lots of people more scary-looking than me there. Are they really going after young, unkempt dudes who obviously know very little about art? They may have been onto something if this was the case. I saw a piece that appeared to have thread woven into it, and to confirm it I put a finger to it. I always have to touch things, I don't know why. But not a second later, the guard appeared out of nowhere, stared at me, and left without saying a word. Creepy.

It wasn't all weird stuff and stalkerish security guards. There was some cool stuff. They have a large collection of Chris VanAllsburg's original illustrations from his books. And the whole idea of having a presentable art museum in Grand Rapids is pretty cool. One more thing for a visitor to do that isn't a mall or a movie theater. The architecture of the building makes a tour worthwhile, and as I've heard a few people say, it doesn't feel like you're in Grand Rapids. But I did really like the stuff on the top floor, the more realistic paintings and sculptures. That's so much more accessible to me, as someone who never studied art. For me and my untrained eyes, good art is anything that puts you in another place, for however long. I don't get abstract sculptures, I don't understand how "horizontal figures dance with vertical ones," I don't like the static, technicolor square-art. Giant closepins don't put me somewhere else. I wanted them to, but they don't.

Fine art is about as accessible to me as arty French films.

The stuff I liked - I learned tonight that it was Impressionist - was realistic. It tapped my imagination and put me somewhere else. I like the stuff that evokes a real scene, apart from my everyday life. This is probably why I like photography. I don't have to study anything, I just have to look. Good enough for me.

By the way, The love of looking is called "Scopophilia." Take that to the bank.

But the last thing I want to do is tell you what is and isn't art. If you get giant closepins and half-toned erasers and that stuff, that's sweet. Maybe I'll get it someday.

I'm going to bed.

November 14, 2007

Death

I had never seen a dead body before. Not like this.

I have been to a few funerals. I saw my grandfather's embalmed body when I was really young, and I was a pall-bearer for my grandmother when she died a few years ago.

But apart from neatly dressed friends and relatives laid to rest in caskets, I have little to no experience with the dead.

I guess I still don't.

But as I was driving home from work tonight, I met with some backed up traffic. Cars were where they shouldn't have been, stopped in the middle of the street, one askew with a huge piece of its windshield smashed in. Oncoming traffic was stopped, but my lane was moving slowly. There were no flashing lights, yet. To my left, a strip mall with a doctor's office and a donut shop. To my right, a retirement home. I crept by, rubber-necking like everyone else.

I saw a body lying behind the car with the smashed windshield, his white hair peaking out from underneath a blanket. They had covered him before any authorities had arrived. I told myself maybe he was cold.

A little farther down the road, a woman was fleeing her car shouting, with hope, "I know CPR."

When I got home, my mom asked me if I was alright. I told her I thought I just saw a dead body. I told her, "He was covered in a blanket, maybe he was cold." She was disturbed.

Later, I drove by the same spot, paint outlines marking the spot in the street where the accident had occurred. There were stains, and I thought I saw chalk outlines.

(In case you're wondering: Elderly man dies in Jenison.)

This, I think, is my big fear. I'm not afraid of dying, I don't know how to fear that yet and I probably don't have to. But I spend a lot of time on the road. I do lots of stupid things while I drive. I have an iPod. I eat sandwiches. I send text messages. I know that I've driven past that exact place hundreds of times, often without my eyes on the road. Could have just as easily been me behind the wheel.

November 6, 2007

...and the Writers went on strike, and I saw that it was good...

It is 11:40. Letterman is on, and it's a rerun.

Why is it a rerun? Because the writers are on strike. All of the television and movie writers are (I think).

Why are they on strike? Well, I have never taken the side of a union before, as I usually take a hard-line union-crushing stance, but this time I see where they're coming from. Television writers are very accomplished and powerful people: They get the majority of Americans to spend their evenings accomplishing nothing. The Canadians are hunting seals and building cabins, the Japanese are building robots, the Russians are trying to go forth and multiply, the Germans are probably drinking, and we're sitting on couches watching crime dramas in between Bud Light and unseasonably early Christmas commercials.

Writers create plot lines, put them in working order, and feed dialog to actors. Then, their ideas get put on TV, advertisers buy commercials, and eventually their shows go to DVD so people can inexplicably buy bad TV series and watch reruns over and over again. But the people who cranked out the script don't see royalties from them.

The people who made your shoes aren't getting any royalties, but the designers probably are. Lots of companies have profit sharing, and when the employees improve the company, they get a piece of it. It might be another 12 cents in their paycheck, but it's a piece. So, too, should television writers get a little extra money for their creations. Besides, a few months off should give them time to get out of their little storyboarding meetings and think up some fresh ideas.

All social justice for TV writers aside (They still make way more money than you), the strike creates more opportunities for reality television. And by that, I mean, it creates the opportunity for us to turn our televisions off for a few more hours each week. I heard American Idol might go to three hours a week. The only way I would approve this is if that additional hour is 60 minutes of crazy and delusional people getting famous the wrong way. Then I would approve.

But imagine, if you will, a world where people shut off their televisions for a few extra hours a week, uninterested in reruns of Ghost Whisperer and CSI:Spinoff, instead opting to read a book, have a conversation, or build robots to keep up with the Japanese. Think of the economic impact!

Of course, I'm a big hypocrite. I watch as much TV as anyone (and it tears me up inside!) and I'll be first in line when TV returns from its rerun hiatus, presumably to watch shows that I have no interest in, about people I don't identify with that hold worldviews I don't understand.

November 4, 2007

Pizza Delivery Revolution Update

I pitched my idea to the suits at Papa John's. The owner liked it, and it seems like they're going to use it. The owner was planning to meet with some radio people tomorrow, and they have connections with the Rampage. And it just so happens Papa john's has abandoned their charity involvement/cause of the last couple years - Undie Funday Sunday (mostly because underwear is sooo last year). For Undie Funday Sunday (man, that name makes me shudder) people donated underwear when they bought pizza. You'd be surprised at how many people line up for free underwear, and how many of them really do need it. But there's something unsettling about involving a pair of whitey-tighties in a food transaction. "Here are my underpants. You'll notice that superman is all over them. Now give me my pizza."

When I asked what I can do to help with this thing, they told me I had already done it. So I guess they're going to take it over, which is okay, but they're motivated strictly from a business perspective. Which I've come to terms with - nothing gets done in the United States, especially anything involving money, unless someone can profit from it. My only concern is that somehow this dies and nothing gets done. So I plan to get annoying about it, and if nothing seems to be happening, I'll probably go straight to a charity, as Evan suggested. They like ideas. They like free money.

October 30, 2007

Pizza Delivery Revolution

Well.

I had an idea. I think it's a good idea. When I get good ideas, ones that I can act on, it's rare, and it makes me wonder where they come from. Because there wasn't anything that really spurred me onto the idea. Because if I could simply manufacture great ideas, I'd be doing it more often. And I'd be rich. I think good ideas are usually accidents, though. I have a theory about where my idea came from though.

I think it's an answer to prayer.

You see, my lifestyle isn't one that yields immediately impressive revolution and heroics. I'm just a guy learning one job and, let's be honest, being really awesome at the other. I've been a pizza guy for over two years now, and I've had plenty of adventures. As glorious as being a pizza man is, it doesn't often lend itself to me being an agent of redemption and revolution on planet earth. My crusade for better tipping has been short-lived and poorly executed. And so I was asking God for a way to make a difference where I am right now.

Enter Roy Williams.

Detroit Lions (Ahem, that would be the 5-2 Detroit Lions) Wide Receiver Roy Williams openly admitted to being a deliberately bad tipper with an awful lot of money. So a few weeks later, Pizza Hut had him deliver pizzas. So I hear, he gave his tips to charity.

And I thought, I could give the 20, 30, 40 bucks I make one night to charity. I already fight hunger on a very small-scale - I provide access to pizza for those lacking initiative or automobile. If for one night I can give my tips to an organization that fights hunger, it will be a way for me to make a slightly more significant, more necessary dent in West Michigan's hunger.

Second Harvest Gleaners food bank can prepare 32 meals with every dollar they receive. Don't ask me how, that's just what the billboard between US-131 and GVSU's downtown campus says.

And so, I imagined myself showing up at their front office, the secretary with the beehive hairdo, pointy glasses and pearls staring at me awkwardly as I hand her a crisp $20 bill. I wink and say, "This should buy, like, a hundred meals or something." And when I leave, I help an old lady cross the street. Because that's what modern revolutionaries do - they help old ladies cross the street.

But I got to thinking, what if it wasn't just me, what if all the drivers at my store would do it? We could make a bigger dent. What if drivers at other stores did it, too? What if we got a lot of pizza drivers together - and honestly, we're a group that could use some good press - and said, just for one night, we'll give our tips to fight hunger. We'll fight hunger not for people unwilling to leave their living room, but for those that don't have a living room. We keep our mileage, we make our wages, but the tips go to something bigger, something better.

And that Roy Williams thing, I don't know, maybe we go to the Grand Rapids Rampage and ask if they might be willing to go along with it, maybe have some linebackers deliver some pizzas, if they can fit in my car. (They can't. It's a coupe. Escort. ZX2. Yeah, that's right, ZX2.) I think people would love to see a Rampage player on their doorstep.

With a little buzz, this is a way to help pizza places get more business, get good press and make a difference in their community without forking over a dime. It shouldn't be tough at all to pitch it to pizza chains. (Though, if they're cool, they'll match, right?) The timing is good - it's before the holidays and people are spending money, winter is coming and charities like Second Harvest will be in greater need of help. Also, we could play the Roy Williams angle if somehow the Rampage got involved.

I truly believe this could happen, and I believe it could work. We have the time to make it happen before Christmas.

The only hangup will be the reluctance of drivers to fork over their tips. Maybe we do it for three hours. Maybe we make it voluntary. People will be more willing to fork over three hours of tips instead of a whole night of tips. We pizza drivers are a greedy bunch. But we could show the world that we have at least a little heart.

Thoughts?

October 23, 2007

Health Insurance

When I turned 23 in February, I was booted from my parents health insurance coverage. In those 23 years, I mooched off dad's insurance as I battled chicken pox, numerous colds, allergies, several bouts with bronchitis, a spat with scarlet fever, an outpatient sinus thing, and zero broken bones. (Actually, I think I broke my coccyx falling off a trampoline in the sixth grade, but it never got treated. Still sore. It's probably out of whack, growing into a tail or something, but I'll deal with that when I'm sixty.) In the eight months since then, I've lived a care-free insurance-free life. There are good things and bad things about this.

Pros:
1. For starters, I don't have any dental coverage. This means I don't have to go to the dentist. I hate the dentist. Actually, I like my dentist. He's a righteous dude. I just don't like the several minutes I spend with his assistant beforehand. Always asking you questions with their fingers in your mouth while they stab your gums... I digress.

2. The second and final pro is that I'm not having money garnished from my paycheck. This means more money for thrilling, life-threatening, and all around bad-for-health activities like skydiving and smoking (I've devoted equal amounts of money and time to each), and less money wasted on keeping myself alive and kicking.

Cons:
I guess now that you mention it (and you did, I heard you), both of those are cons. My teeth, I assume, are slowly decaying into near-british disarray, and I don't have any funds to keep myself out of debt while I battle sprained ankles and lung cancer (You know, from the skydiving and smoking, sometimes simultaneously.) I'm just a bad dive away from a life of debt. Or a car accident. There are a lot of bad drivers out there.

And so it goes that I'm on the hunt for health coverage, and I have some sympathies for anyone who goes through this process. It's not fun. The system isn't set up for you to understand it. The system is set up for, well, the system to understand it.

I'm in the position where I have asthma prescriptions that run at least $100 a month. (That's cable, internet, and phone service with the Comcast Triple Play! But only for a year. This is a whole different rant - or is it?) And so I'm trying to find a way to get prescriptions covered. This, I'm discovering, isn't an economical possibility.

They ask you questions - you a dude? You sick? You smoke? (I really don't, so don't go telling your parents or mine that I do) Ever had malaria? Ever dated someone with malaria? Any cousins with Scoliosis? That kind of thing. Every time you say yes, you'll pay another $10 a month. They need to make money, and you being sick all the time isn't going to help that. Sorry guys, insurance companies aren't there to help you, they exist to make money. Which is why they have a deductible. Your deductible is basically the number where the insurance company says, "Well, we've let them do our job long enough, and I guess we can start doing what they pay us for now." They don't cover a thing until you've paid your deductible's worth in medical expenses. Then, they often still don't cover everything. Seriously. I didn't know this until someone explained it to me last week.

My point: They don't make this easy. I can see why so many people live without health insurance. Lots of people can't afford it, and lots of people can't justify it. More and more, I think I'm one of the latter. People choose to live without it. And for now, that's what I'm doing. For people who genuinely need help, it's there.

Unfortunately, I have a job, so I don't qualify
.

October 17, 2007

Congress. Turkey. Congress turkeys.

I know, I know.

I'm a liar. I tell lies. Because that's what liars do, we tell lies.

My first post was called "No technology, no politics, no jellies." And I'm about to go back on my word. And it's not because I want to talk with you about jellies. Believe me, I do, but as badly as I want to talk about my favorite preserves, that's one promise I intend to keep.

You didn't really expect me to stay away from politics, did you? How could I be expected to get by without ranting about our government? They're an easy target. We have to talk about the government. In fact, we have to hate the government. I hate the government. I don't hate government. I hate the government. I hate our government. (And you should, too. You should hate your federal, state, and local government. You should even hate your drain commish.)

I'm pretty sure I'm just a few more congressional blunders away from libertarianism.

In case you hadn't heard, there's a war going on in Iraq. (Also, OJ was innocent, and Pluto is no longer a planet. Sorry.) We don't like it. Nobody likes the war anymore. And this is probably not due to a vast left-wing media conspiracy. It's because we still have future teachers, doctors, mechanics, writers, businessman, lawyers, politicians, astronauts, and ice-cream men who are still dying over there, and they're doing it because brainwashed terror-goons aren't playing fairly. Wanna blame Bush for this, for not being prepared. Fine, not on my shoulders. Or blame a weak-kneed congress that put the handcuffs on and wouldn't let 'em go in guns-ablazin'. Blame Martin Sheen. Doesn't matter to me who you blame.

While this is going on, Congress is having a little trouble doing anything right back home. (See: 11% approval rating)

Yes. Democracy in action (Democracy Inaction?). You can pick nine people, and one of them will feel appropriately represented by congress.

And sooooo....

Congress, looking to improve their standing, takes a nice long look at a war from 92 years ago. They scrutinize Turkey and say "Well, let's make this official. Turkey... Armenians... That was genocide. Yeah, definitely genocide. Let's pass a bill and make it official."

I don't dispute that what Turkey did was probably genocide. And I don't contest the catastrophe of genocide. What I have to wonder about is the timing. (side note: The movement to call this genocide actually has been set in motion only in the last few years. Nevertheless, the timing is bad.)

You see, Turkey is kind of important in the way we supply our troops, particularly with water. So we shouldn't make them angry. So much for diplomacy, right?

And Turkey is attacking the Kurds who, let's be honest, are probably some of the last people in the middle east outside of Israel who don't hate us. (Attacking the Kurds is a little like the bully, having just been told he's a bully, saying "Am not!" and then giving a nice charley horse. Great way to plead your case, Turkey.)

On one extreme of this issue, you can look at who pushed this bill, Californian congressmen (with Armenian constituents?). And you could assume that congress knew it would make Turkey angry, knew that it was an undiplomatic move, and foresaw potential difficulties with the war effort in Iraq, and acted without concern, even acted in the interest of undermining our troops.

On the other end, we see a congress who saw this bill and passed it without awareness of its repercussions.

And so we have the following situation:

Congress is evil.

-or-

Congress is ignorant.

11%.

October 11, 2007

Three men and a car accident

I saw a car accident today.

Actually, I heard it. I heard the thump, then I heard a co-worker in the next room say, on a cell phone, “I gotta go. I think I should call an ambulance.”

Accidents you can hear from inside are usually pretty bad. I stepped into the next room and looked out the window through the blinds, and the other staff gathered around to gawk.

I went outside, along with Jim, the guy who was on his cell phone when it happened. We stood there on the porch of our tiny office building, shivering in the cold, watching people stumble out of their cars into 44th street. He told me “that kid has a concussion. I’m sure of it. He was lying on the grass a second ago.”

Then some other guy came out and we assumed manly-break-it-down-mode. Jim told him, too, that the kid had a concussion. Other people had switched into hero mode, joyously fleeing their cubicles to help the victims, dialing 911 as they rushed to the scene.

I have heard women complain about the manly-break-it-down-mode. This is when guys break down stuff and try to figure out what happened and why. Usually, it’s when we have nothing more to say and we want to prove how smart we are. And usually it’s something completely inane that we don’t need to know and we shouldn’t want to know. It starts with a question like, “Wonder how they mow that,” or “This is not enough bacon. Why isn’t there more bacon?” If there’s a project at hand, like, say, we need to pull a crippled ox out of a pit or something, we’ll break down every detail. (It should be noted: It’s probably a good idea never to ask a group of men for directions. Or instructions.)

Women talk about relationships, but men get to the bottom of pointless things. This is what we do. No intimacy there, just how we like it.

And so we got to the bottom of things.

There were six cars involved, I came up with that information. One guy said he kind of saw it happen. The Cadillac, he said, came up too fast and couldn’t stop. It was going 40 miles an hour, the elderly man or woman who was driving it looked down, because they probably spilled their coffee, and looked up too late and slammed into the Pontiac – that’s a Pontiac, isn’t it? Somehow, we decided, this was the reason all six got involved. No question. Some of them were facing completely opposite directions. And one of the kids, we knew, had a concussion.

We talked about it more. Then the EMTs showed up – one guy works with an ex-EMT once who wasn’t there today – and we got to talking about our jobs. Then, someone had a phone call and it was 3:00, my quitting time, before I knew it.

And so I went home.

One Love.

October 2, 2007

Good thing I am not a dentist

Thanks for reading this. Really, thanks. The last thing I want to do is talk to myself. Though, admittedly, that’s not so bad, and not so unusual. I do it everyday in my car. (And you do too. Right? You do, don’t you?) Actually, what I do is more of a sorry attempt at singing and harmonizing with the radio. If you’ve ever passed me on the road, I was probably doing some mighty fine lip-synching. Forget lip-synching. You’re here reading my blog to get some real nuggets of info-tainment.

I was going to get on here and tell you about my new job, and how I’m glad I finally found a position where my boss is not some 17-year-old girl my sister knows from elementary school, the one who started smoking in the third grade. I was going to tell you how it’s nice to have a cubicle to adorn with post-it notes and inspirational posters and miniature basketball hoops (yes, hoops, multiple ones, as in full-court office balling). And how it’s cool to have a watercooler and how they tell me once a day to “stop leaning on that and get back to work.” But I don’t like talking about my job.

Know this: I got a job, and I felt as unqualified as could be for the real world and was pretty sure I was going to spend my life delivering pizzas and answering to high-schoolers. All of my fears were assuaged as I fell through the cracks and weaseled my way into gainful employment. But I am not my job, and I don’t want to spend all day talking about it. I’d rather talk about fantasy football and how picking up Dwayne Bowe officially makes me a genius. But, you have no interest in that either.

Instead, I want to talk to you about custom orthodontics.

Here’s the thing: I always, always liked the orthodontist better. He had more current issues of Highlights and a rack full of game boys. And when things went wrong with the orthodontist, I was absolved of any responsibility. Teeth not growing in right? Blame genetics, or maybe evolution. But don’t blame me because my teeth can’t figure out which way is up.

Conversely, at the dentist, I was to blame for the chaos in my mouth. I always felt awkward admitting that the blood on their floss had been shed by my dental indifference. It was always obvious that I didn’t floss, and they still asked me if I had as though I was the only rotten kid who couldn’t seem to find the floss. Looking back, I should have told her, “Of course I didn’t. Why do you think I’m bleeding all over your bib, like this?” but the hygienist’s interrogation chair is no position for sarcasm. After all, this was after they’d spent ten minutes mining my gums with the little pokey-pickaxe thing. No sir, I am not a dentist fan.

Of course, the dentist’s torture was fleeting. Orthodontic pain lasted weeks…but the smile lasts forever.

Or at least until I start chewing tobacco.

One Love.

September 28, 2007

No technology, no politics, and no jelly.

This is nothing new. For five years, I’ve kept a blog. Two blogs, actually. But I wouldn’t call myself a blogger. That, to me, conjures up images of tech-geeks, guys in their thirties getting together to make snide remarks about iPhones, politicos who drop names of Capitol-hillers I’ve never heard of, or women in their forties who blog about their favorite jellies and where you can find sweet crochet patterns on the world-wide-interweb. Whether my impressions of quote-unquote “bloggers” are accurate, I can’t say. But I don’t want to call myself a blogger. I would, however, like to at least think of myself as a writer. And the best way to be a better writer is to write everyday.

It seems like you need to have a specific subject – technology, jelly, politics - to keep a successful blog. And I don’t have a subject. I’m not an expert in anything. But the whole “blogosphere” idea bugs me because it implies a horde of bloggers who all converge to talk about the latest thing and sound off their opinions. Everyone is saying mostly the same things. And you only need to read a few political blogs to see this. I don’t want to be a part of the blogosphere. I want people to read what I write not because they know who I am or because they’re looking for political affirmation, but because I am mildly amusing and worth reading. To effectively do this, I know that I need to keep it short.

And space out paragraphs like this.

People do a lot of experimenting in college. They go to parties, they meet new people, they try gateway drugs. My experimentation was with xanga. When I was a freshman, I started a xanga, the “Mcblog” of blogs, if you will. And, though I wouldn’t consider myself a pioneer, this was five years ago and for a long time afterward I kept seeing news stories about this new fad called “blogging.” I found myself wondering why this was news, because I was never at the forefront of anything, and to me this was old news. I must have been in on the ground floor of average-joe template-blogging. Most of my friends soon began their own experimenting and started their blogs, too. Mostly, they used them to tell about their weekends, made it so I wouldn’t have to talk to them in real life, and only a few ever really branched out into any real substance or amusement. I wanted responses; I wanted to amuse. I was a comment junkie from the beginning.

Eventually, xanga lost its appeal. It was what all the junior highers were doing. I had to move onto bigger, better drugs. I mean, blogs. I got a MySpace. And a little while later, I started a blogspot much like this one, which I never publicized. Over the past few years, most of the casual bloggers in high school and college have stopped blogging and started getting their social buzz from Facebook. Thank the Lord for Facebook, it weeded out all the posers.

For now, I’m a full grown man with refined, professional tastes. With this here blog, I’ll be exploring the world and hopefully keep it from getting boring. The deal is that if you keep reading, I’ll keep writing. I’ll stay away from technology unless it’s something really sweet. I’ll stay away from politics unless I get really upset or have something mildly amusing to share with you about politics or politicians. And as big of a jelly fan as I am, I know that not everyone shares my affinity for preserves. So no jam posts.

Come to think of it, I never told you why I called this “Na├»ve Jim.” Well, guess you’ll have to tune in next time. And don’t forget to ask for more Ovaltine, please.

And I’m still a comment junkie.

One Love.

September 26, 2007