Monday, November 30, 2015

I spend a lot of time on this blog talking about issues that aren’t interesting to anyone but me. My readership figures indicate this fact to me quite clearly. In the extremely rare instance that one of my long-winded complaints has a wider appeal than one, it is never of any real consequence. It’s more of a commonly-accepted annoyance than a pressing issue worthy of the attention of societal leaders.
                Until today. My friends, computer keyboards are a huge problem and they need to be addressed. Well, not the whole keyboard necessarily. Just one midsized key. The Caps Lock key. Ask yourself, how many times have you pressed the Caps Lock key on purpose? Now think about how many times you’ve pressed it by accident. If you’re anything like me, the percentage is somewhere in the neighborhood of 99% by accident to 1% intentional. That may be being generous on the intentional front.
                Here’s a regular scenario for me. I’m in need of a capital “A.” I hit the Shift key using my right hand, no problem. I reach for the “A” key with my left, my dominant hand, and somehow, someway, overshoot the “A” and nail the Caps Lock. Of course, I assume everything went according to plan and so I’ll just continue typing away. Yes, despite the amount of time I spend using keyboards, I still find myself watching my fingers as I type. I’m not looking for the letters, necessarily. The only way I can explain this is, I use my feet a lot, and yet I still find myself staring at them while I walk. It’s just a habit?
                Back to the problem. So, I’m typing along and then I glance at my screen and see it: a line or two of all caps. Unintentional all-caps. For years, this meant me having to delete everything I typed and then retype it. Only recently did I discover the existence in Microsoft word of the “Change Case” option. This helpful little icon can change all-caps text to any old kind of caps style you require, including regular-caps text.    
                Still, it’s an added step that I don’t need in my life. Is there any reason the Caps Lock key needs to exist let alone occupy such a place of prominence on my keyboard? I mean, I’m good with holding the Shift button down if I for some reason need a lengthy sequence of caps. But if this needs its own button, why can’t that button live off with the equally little used, by me anyway, Num Lock button? You know, somewhere where a guy is less-likely to accidentally encounter it while he’s feverously typing about nonsense for a personal blog?
                Perhaps it’s a union thing among keyboard keys. Or could it be that Big Caps Lock has the keyboard industry wrapped around its little finger? I can’t say.
                If we can’t get rid of or move the Caps Lock key, here’s an idea. Let’s put one of those little glass cubes on top of it. There will be a little hinge so the cube can be lifted up. Basically, it’s like the thing that covers the red “Nuclear War” button that every president has on his/her desk in the movies. That way, if I need Caps Lock (assuming hell has frozen over), it’s still in its same high-value spot. All I need to do is lift up the little cover and tap it. Then, when I’m done, I can replace the cover and carry on with my typing, free of the fear of accidentally activating it.
                Is this too much to ask? Presidential candidates! Hear me, I pray you! The first one of you that starts talking about keyboard key placement will absolutely get my vote next year! Unless it’s Trump. Then I’m going to have to rethink my position on this thing entirely.

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Black Friday Survival Guide: 5 Keys to Bargain-Hunting & Coming Back Alive
Soon, very soon, Black Friday will be upon us. A day which began as a way to honor the birth of Arthur C. Woolworth and has since mutated into an unholy orgy of commercialism. How far we’ve come, Mr. W. How far we’ve come, indeed.
In all likelihood at least a few of you will be heading out into that madness in an ill-fated attempt to get a good deal on a television or an Xbox. In reality, you have a better chance of getting an excellent deal on an elbow to the temple or a knee to the groin. What you won’t get is an Xbox. But still, I’m sure you’ll try. I know that I can’t talk you out of going out on Black Friday. Not any more than I can talk fish out of swimming. What I can do is offer you a few tried and true survival tips, tips which are based on my own experiences and musings. Follow these, my friends, and my blog traffic may not dip significantly come December.
Because you’ll still be alive. See what I did there?
Anyway, here are those tips:
  • Say “Hi!” to every dog you meet. Now, in all likelihood, you will encounter very few dogs on Black Friday. As a species, they’ve developed a strong aversion to materialistic pursuits. If you do see one, give him or her a friendly smile and wave. He or she will remember this kindness and, if the shit hits the fans, you may just be able to count on him or her having your back.
  • Stay within walking distance of your home. For one thing, you’re more likely to end up shopping alongside people you know and people you know are scientifically-proven to be 13% less likely to strangle you with your own entrails over a PS4. Always play the odds. Even better, say you indulge a little too heavily on Thanksgiving. This allows you to get your shopping in, burn a few calories and not risk driving in a drunken, food-addled state.
  • Think before you act. Last year the wife and I went out on Black Friday because we had a coupon to save $5 on hockey tape. This coupon was only good at one store and so we went there. It just so happens that this one store is located within the confines of the largest mall on the Eastern seaboard. The blood of many innocents was spilled that day, if such things exist on Black Friday. Sure, we got our discounted hockey tape. But at what cost? Nothing on the coupon compelled us to go there on that day. We could have gone on any Regular Day and gotten the same discount. We did not think and we ended up in a feeding frenzy. Know what you’re doing before you do it. Structure is the key to survival. Your instincts must not be trusted on that day.
  • Go against the grain. Everyone will flock to the Wal-Marts and the Best Buys of the world the second they finish their Thanksgiving meal. It is from these stores that all of the day’s viral videos of fistfights and chaos will emerge. If you must go shopping, shop against the grain. Research deals in unexpected places. Is the local, family-owned cigar store selling something on the cheap? Go there. Buy all that you can. Don’t smoke? Are there no smokers on your list? Don’t let that get in the way of a good deal. They can learn to enjoy it.
  • Remember those who have come before. No truly great Black Friday shopper has hands that are blood-free. Many have fallen in pursuit of a hot deal. Many have likely fallen directly as a result of you punching a fist through their torso. Remember them. Before you leave your home, pour out a few pennies on the sidewalk in their honor. Perhaps if the requisite number of pennies are left, their spirits will elect to watch over you that day and see you to safety. Or so you should pray.         

Monday, November 9, 2015

Choose Your Own Adventure: Lunchtime Microwave Edition
I’ve spent a lot of time, some would say too much time, writing out the things people do at work that bug me (For proof, please see here, here, here and here). More than a few of these involve the bathroom. Actually, a good chunk of my problems with society in general stem from others’ inability to follow a few, basic and simple Water Closet Protocols as I call them.
Recently, I’ve discovered a new thing that happens at work to complain about. Good news, it has nothing to do with the bathroom! Nope, if the story of a meal ends in the bathroom, then this issue concerns the place where that story begins: the kitchen.
                Lunch. For most of us, it’s the midpoint of the workday. A time when you can either look back and say: “I’ve done some good things here today” or “It’s what time? Sweet Jesus. Well, I’ve still got all afternoon to finish that up. Should be fine.”
                I’m a creature of habit and so most days at work my lunch looks a little something like this: container of plain Greek yogurt with a few assorted berries sprinkled in, an apple and either leftovers or a container of plain chicken and veggies. It’s a boring lunch for a boring gentleman. Just like our forefathers intended when they built this great land of ours.
                That last element of the lunch, the container of either leftovers or chicken, that’s where the trouble resides. See, 19 out of every 20 lunches I eat require whatever is in here to be microwaved for somewhere between a minute and a minute and a half if I’m feeling froggy. It’s not a big deal. The kitchen is directly next to my cube so the walk is short. Plus, the fact that I can see the kitchen allows me to time it to minimize awkward social interaction should I so choose.
                However, twice in the last, let’s say two weeks, the following has occurred. I’ve been hard at work, noticed the time and the rumbling in my tummy and, after a quick glance over at the empty kitchen, have decided: “OK, let’s do this.” I grab my lunch from my lunchbox scurry over to the kitchen, go to place it in the idle microwave and BAM! There’s someone else’s already-nuked lunch sitting in there.

Monday, November 2, 2015

Infographic: America's Taste in Candy is Suspect
Halloween is gone, leaving in its wake naught but candy wrappers, empty bottles of pumpkin beer and a few mutilated pumpkins. For those of us for who hold Halloween as sacred, myself and druids mostly, these are dark, depressing days. The longest possible time until we get more Halloween. Not even the promise of the impending Thanksgiving and Christmas seasons can cheer us up. Not right now.  
                In this awful, depressing wasteland of early November, there’s only one thing to do: go back in time and pretend it’s still Halloween. Bingo. Done. So, let’s talk about this pre-Halloween infographic I just stumbled upon today. It concerns a study done on the favorite candies of each of the fifty states. More than 40,000 Americans from all states were asked to name their favorite Halloween candy. This is what they came up with.
 Influenster Halloween Candy Map 2015
                That comes courtesy of Influenster.
                To be perfectly honest, there are a lot of things mortally wrong with that picture. I’m going to pick out the six that stuck in my craw the most.

  1. No Mallow Cups. The only acceptable reason for Mallow Cups to not be included on this infographic is if the question was: “What’s your favorite Halloween candy? You know, besides Mallow Cups, which are number one on everyone’s list because this is America. So besides that given, what’s your favorite?” Last year, Mallow Cups took home the top spot on my own Halloween power rankings, as it has done every year of my life. Its absence from this study is a sad testament to the decline of this great country. Click here to view the Jeff Daniels rant from The Newsroom and just imagine he’s talking about candy.
  2. West Virginia Doesn’t Know the Difference Between Candy and Cookies. Seriously, West Virginia? It’s not hard. You’ve got a cookie aisle in grocery stores and a candy aisle. One of them is a thing you bake or something and the other one is made from the bones of elves or something. Look, I’m not a chef and I’m not a scientist, but I know one goddamn thing: an Oreo is not candy. I expect this kind of crap out of Florida, but not you, West Virginia.
  3. Speaking of Which … What Happened to Florida? Look at it down there. Picking a great candy like Nestle Crunch, being all normal. Florida, no offense, but anecdotally-speaking, you are the dumbest and weirdest state in the Union. I half expected to scroll down and see a picture of John Candy smiling back at me because every single one of your citizens misunderstood the question. But no. You made a great pick with Nestle Crunch. Meanwhile, West Virginia is sitting up there dunking M&Ms in a glass of milk.
  4. Arizona Picked Toblerone. I know two things about this candy: I’ve never had it and it comes in a long triangle box. My guess is, judging by that box, they’re super expensive. I have no science to back that up. I’m not sure how these are better than milk chocolate cups filled with marshmallow but whatever.  
  5. Pennsylvania Picked Swedish Fish. Really? Swedish Fish are fine I guess, but they should not be anyone’s favorite anything. I’m going to chalk this up much in the same way I chalk up all things that are wrong with Pennsylvania: Philadelphia and Pittsburgh tried to do the right thing and then the entire middle of the state took a big dump on their good intentions.
  6. What’s with that Kit Kat Logo in Montana? A quick Googling tells me that is the international Kit Kat logo. Since this survey only concerns these here United States, let’s just stick with the logo we all know and are comfortable with, yes? Yes.