It also does not matter how widely you are known. The Mayor of Toledo Ohio is a public figure despite not having been heard of in 99.999% of the United States.
Therefore, if being a public figure is not dependant on where you are, and it doesn’t matter how widely you are known, then it stands to reason then that alongside those public figures known countrywide or globally, there must also be local public figures known in smaller circles or communities. So my question is, if there is no upper limit, is there a lower limit? What is the threshold? – read more
Joe Monk’s ship, in a TNG-style planet scene:
– and, finally, a Ruby-related doodle from around the holidays:
I’d like to take a moment to thank Barry for giving me access to his repository of hilarity, and doubly so for having these on tap just as my body apparently got caught up with some sort of Spanish Influenza/Black Death hybrid.
SO YOU WANT TO BE AN ASTRONAUT – a primer
I have been interested in space exploration since July 8th, 1978. That day my uncle Buzz Yeager Jacobs took me to NASA to show me where he works. Uncle Buzz was an astronaut, and he took me behind the scenes of both the Johnson Space Center and Jet Propulsion Laboratories. I got to wear a spacesuit, I walked on their simulated moon environment, and I was even blasted into near-Earth orbit when I stowed away in the payload of a Gemini 6 rocket. I came back with only a few ill effects, but I was kept in quarantine for a week because of exposure to cosmic radiation due to poor shielding in the cargo compartment. To this day I still yell “Flame on!” in times of extreme stress.
Since then, I have taken an interest in space travel and have now taken it upon myself to write this primer for you, the aspiring astronaut-to-be.
PART ONE- So You Want To Be An Astronaut.
It’s not easy becoming a member of the elite space corps. Buzz Yeager Jacobs was an air force test pilot for 25 years and flunked out of flight school twice before he was accepted for astronaut training. They don’t take just anyone. Lindsay Lohan, for example, cannot be an astronaut, no matter how much we would all like to blast her into space.
Astronauts go through rigorous training, both physical and mental. They must be able to withstand the enormous physical trauma of space flight- the high gravitational forces on takeoff and reentry followed by no gravity and weightlessness. Mentally, the stress is even harder. Ever see the Bugs Bunny cartoon where he stacks a dozen cases of dynamite on top of each other and lights the fuse, blowing up poor Elmer Fudd who was tied to the top? Well, that is space flight in a nutshell, and every astronaut knows it.
But if you have “the right stuff” you can be an astronaut. What is “the right stuff?” I don’t know but they have it. And if you have it, this primer is for you.
PART TWO – Space
Space is a very big place, and there is relatively little in it. Let me give you an example: Space is even emptier than Paris Hilton’s head. “That’s hot.” (No, Paris. In fact, space is very very cold.)
Before space flight, scientists believed that space was very crowded with a substance called “ether.” They could not see it or measure it, but they believed it was there nonetheless. Those early scientists were pretty stupid. (Or pretty religious, if you replace the word “ether” with the word “God.”)
Today we know that space is a vacuum which spans a distance many trillions of light-years across. What is a light-year? It is defined as the distance a ray of light will travel in a year. In terms of miles, it is a quazillion-billion-doodad miles, a long way in anybody’s book.
PART THREE – Objects Found In Space
Despite the relative emptiness, there are things in space which can kill you.
1- There is no air in space. If you ever find yourself going there, remember to pack some oxygen or you’ll have a very short visit.
2- Asteroids. These are also called “comets” or “meteorites,” depending on how accurate the movie you are watching is. Asteroids are 70% ice, 10% rock, and 20% anger. They exist to smash into planets and kill dinosaurs. This is what happened on Earth. An angry asteroid smashed into the planet and sent a giant cloud of dust into the air, blocking all sunlight, killing most plants, choking most oceans, and forcing the large animals that depended on plants and oceans to die. (No, no, Mr. Gore, I am not talking about your “Inconvenient Truth.” This is factual.) If you ever played the old video game “Asteroids” on the Atari 2600 you know how dangerous these objects can be.
3- There are a great number of planets in space, but only a fraction of them are thought possible of sustaining human life. According to Abbott and Costello go to Mars, the planet Venus is populated by a race of beauty pageant contestants who have never seen a man. (And one giant dog.) Since this movie’s release in the early 1950’s NASA has made a Venusian colony a top priority.
4- The sun. Look into the dawn sky. The big yellow one’s the sun. But don’t look directly at it! (I should have warned you first. Sorry.) It is a very hot environment. Don’t go there.
PART FOUR – Aliens
The official government position is that there is no life in space. We know that is untrue. Look no further than Tom Cruise.
Tom Cruise is a Scientologist. Scientology is a science-fiction-based religion founded by science-fiction writer L. Ron Hubbard and its main tenets can be found in his science-fiction novels. And Tom Cruise is an actor. Since when has Hollywood been wrong about anything?
Scientology believes that Earth is an intergalactic prison and that problems on Earth are caused by evil aliens. Lost your job? Drink too much? It is the aliens fault. Scientologists also believe that one day the Evil Alien Dictator will return to destroy the Earth. That is why Tom Cruise has green-lighted Mission: Impossible 4- while there is still time.
You may run into these aliens as you travel through space. You may also run into Klingons, Vorlons, or Marvin the Martians, all of whom will have a better ship and cooler uniforms than you do.
PART FIVE – So You Still Want To Be An Astronaut
After reading this primer, many of you may still want to become astronauts. Good for you, junior space cadets!
Being an astronaut is one of the noblest callings of humanity. A man may be chosen Pope, a woman may experience the joy of motherhood, but only an astronaut can spend four hours on the launch pad only to have a couple of clouds and a seagull scrub the launch.
To you, Astronaut-To-Be, I say clear skies and happy trails! I salute you.
SO YOU WANT TO BE A TRAVELING SALESMAN – a primer
Congratulations salesman! You have chosen a noble profession, The roots of traveling salesmanship can be traced back to ancient Greece. Ancient salesmen traveled a well worn path between Troy and Sparta selling a primitive form of Tupperware. Sample cases were rather large and heavy, as Tupperware was made mostly of stone. The Romans soon improved on the sales trade and traveling Roman salesmen used castrated slaves to carry their samples. Today’s modern salesman has little use for castratos as samples can be carried in a simple briefcase.
PART ONE- WHAT TO SELL?
Good salesmen are well aware of demographics, sales trends, and economic forecasts. For example, even the poorest salesman should be able to sell water in a desert. It would take a better salesman to sell water in an urban city. The best salesman would have sold water to Titanic survivors while the ship went down. In fact, Herbert F. Braithewaite did just that and in 1913 was inducted into the National Traveling Salesman Hall of Fame in Utica New York, posthumously. If you go “above and beyond” the call of duty you too may end up as Mr. Braithewaite.
Traveling salesmen have at their disposal a wide array of data upon which to base their sales decision. Often, the decision is based on one simple fact of sales- buy cheap and sell high. What can you buy cheaply and sell high? *
*The National Board of Traveling Salesman does not condone drug proliferation or prostitution.
Your product should be small and portable, to allow ease of travel, yet large enough to look impressive. It should have a high profit margin and allow for repeat sales. It should be a common item yet also be highly desirable. Some suggestions include encyclopedias, vacuum cleaners, and marital aids.
PART TWO – TRAVELING
It has often been said that a good salesman is like a jazz musician- both have plenty of “sole.” This truism has been proven throughout the years. Expect to put many miles on your car and wear out many shoes as you travel the country. Yet you should also expect to see many sites of natural beauty and historic significance. Try to avoid these areas as these are generally low sales zones.
It is usually a good idea to plan your itinerary before hand to make best use of your route. A good route will take you through the most areas in the shortest span of time. For example, a good route through Brooklyn, New York will take you through Bay Ridge, Bensonhurst, and Gravesend. A bad route through Brooklyn will take you through East New York.
PART THREE -TIPS FOR COLD CALLING
“Cold calling” is a sales term for trying to make a sale when there has no preliminary groundwork, such as phone calls or pamphlets mailed to the home. Here are some do’s and don’ts for successful cold calls:
- Do not make sales calls at a funeral home during a funeral. It may be tempting due to the great number of people gathered, but sales data shows that mourners generally don’t care to spend money at a funeral, viewing, or wake.
- Do pay attention to the needs of your customers. For example, do not try to sell silverware in a housing project. Do try to sell sneakers.
- Do pay good attention to your appearance. A salesman who has stains on his tie, a wrinkled suit, and a four-day growth of beard may be picked up by the police in higher class neighborhoods. (Some traveling salesman have seen this as an opportunity. Neville Sanderson in 1971 sold three dozen cases of novelty toy water guns while sitting in the holding room of the Plainsboro Police Department. He was salesman of the month for April, though he was later charged and found guilty of aiding and abetting a mass breakout of prisoners from the same prison using his water guns.)
The creed of the traveling salesmen has always been “integrity.” Despite the hundreds of traveling salesman jokes, the salesman who sleeps with the farmer’s daughter is the exception, not the rule. In fact, the National Board of Traveling Salesmen has been locked on litigation with farmer Rufus Frederick Jones of Wheeling West Virginia and his buxom daughter Josie for spreading the lies of philandering salesmen. Evidence shows that the pies left on their window sill and the advances by young Josie were legal entrapment and the divorce of salesman Paul Collins on grounds or infidelity should be overturned.
Allow me to be the first to welcome you to the world of Traveling Salesmanship. We look forward in the coming weeks to providing you with the support you need in your new career, as well as our weekly newsletter, The Willie Loman Gazette.
Arthur William Rotnac
National Board of Traveling Salesmen
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Thanks again to BMJ2k, for allowing me access to his wordsmithing.
Is it a coincidence that friend of the site, Ray, has released the second of his Walker Journals just as I myself feel as if I’m becoming a zombie, or has that madman undertaken some chemical warfare R&D in an attempt to turn me into cheap acting labour for his videos?
Only time will tell.
Strange thing, life. (Your life may vary.) If I were still working at my old school there’s a good chance I’d have been on the senior trip this weekend. Senior Trip last year was fun, if your idea of fun is keeping two rival high schools from rumbling is fun. But I did get to sit in a hallway until 4am and almost died playing paint ball on a glacier, so I guess everything is relative.
Not being at the old place anymore has definite pros and cons.
- Longer commute
- Less familiarity with students and staff
- Not involved with school events
- Not working with friends
- Not working on yearbook
- Not going on Senior Trip
- My new school is not closing down
Well, in all honesty, if I were back there I’d like to have gone, if only to see if the burger guy Kathy almost got fired last year is still there. At any rate, I’m OK with not going, but life being the cosmic game of “shit” that it is, kept throwing it back in my face. For example: On Friday, I found out, my new school also had their senior trip (I am sick of capitalizing that.) I had no idea it was coming, nor do I even know where they went. This is because not only do I not teach seniors, but I am also extremely dense. I found out about the senior trip when my period four class asked me “what are you doing here, you’re supposed to be on the senior trip?”. News to me. All I know is, the COSA (not to be confused with LA COSA NOSTRA, trust me, I made that near-fatal mistake) told some kids that I was going. Again, news to me. Needless to say, if you haven’t already figured it out, I did not go. I am fairly certain that I wasn’t supposed to. I think.
Then I found out that my old colleague and general partner-in-complaints Michelle is on the senior trip with her school. If somehow Michelle and Liz are on the same dude ranch, and my school is there without me, I will be pissed. Like I said, Life is a big game of “shit.”
But I made up for it. I went to one of my favorite places, one which, in fact, inspired a couple of good blogs. (I know what you’re thinking, smart-alec, yes I do have a couple of good ones.)
I went to Home Depot.
(Full Disclosure- I did not go to Home Depot. I actually went to Lowe’s, which, other than being blue instead of orange, and slightly brighter, is EXACTLY THE SAME as Home Depot. And right across the street. Please direct all complaints to the Editors_of_Mr._Blogs_Tepid_Ride@who_cares.com)
Buying hardware is a man thing. Oh sure, women buy hardware. We even let them in the stores. But like peeing on a campfire and punching out rednecks, it’s a guy thing. I was there to buy a washing machine. Major appliance. Measuring involved, plumbing, (and here you can imagine me hitching up my tool belt), and tools.
Now, I’ve had trouble at Home Depot in the past. One time they sold out of the advertised cordless drill the day before the sale began. Another time a salesman tried to sell me some 3/4? sheet metal screws when I knew damn well I needed 5/8. And, infamously, I was unable to buy a knob for my air conditioner, thus setting me on a trip to Boro Park. Forearmed and forewarned, I didn’t go to the store nearby.
I went to the one under the Gowanus. “Gowanus” is an old Indian word for “Hey Chief, that overpass is about to rust apart.” It is a really crappy area. Remember the part of Goodfellas where Jimmy the Gent tries to get Karen to go into his warehouse to get some swag, where he would most likely have whacked her? It was filmed one block over. I have some “cool” (an old Indian word meaning “bad”) pictures of me sneering like De Niro and pointing to the warehouse. I figured that a neighborhood of seedy warehouses over a slimy creek and under an elevated train near the waterfront is about as manly as it gets. It even had an element of danger. I might have been bothered by one of the drunks hovering suspiciously close to my car.
Inside the store I first saw a large display of leaf blowers. Damn they were nice. This model had an extra tank for gas storage and a pair of attachments for stubborn or wet leaves. I got as far as trying one on until I remembered that I live in an apartment and moved on to the emergency generators.
No matter what store I am in, if they sell flashlights, that’s the aisle you can find me in. I’ve got three mini-maglites (the creme de la creme of mini lights) and flashlights that have tripods, rubberized coatings, flexible arms, and even ones that crank instead of using batteries in case The Reckoning leaves me behind. So of course I put a Black and Decker gooseneck work light in my wagon.
After handling every torque wrench and comparing dry wall screws I moved on to the appliances and reflected that, had I handled the merchandise the same way in, say, a lingerie store, I may have been asked to leave.
I went over to the salesman and saw that he was about 90 years old and wearing a tool belt with grease stains older than the Shroud of Turin. Good. This guy should know what he was talking about. And he did. Our conversation was peppered with terms like “thermal mesh,” “brass sheet knurling,” and even one “other big puss salesmen in the electrical department.” Man-type conversation.
I bought a washer and was actually happy that it didn’t come with some hoses that common sense just screams that a washer should come with. Happy? Sure. I got to buy some stuff in the plumbing aisle, which is probably the aisle that over the years I’ve bought the least from. I have to point out, for honesty’s sake (a first for this blog) that all you need to hook up a washer is a Y-hose, faucet hose, and a couple of screw-on attachments. In fact, not a single tool is needed. But just in case, I bought a plumber’s wrench, wire cutters, and knee pads.
Delivery won’t be until next week because the washer wasn’t in stock. Damn Home Depot. (Lowe’s.)
Back out in the parking lot I made it my car without one of the drunks asking me for change. Good thing too, because I wasn’t afraid to swing my new plumber’s wrench.
While it was no trip to the dude ranch, I got just as much enjoyment out of the hardware store. Probably even more, when you consider that I didn’t have to worry about any kids getting kicked by a horse.
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Thanks again to BMJ2k, for allowing me access to his wordsmithing.
For those of you who were smart enough not to read “Knobs for Noobs,” and frankly, good for you, a quick recap: After a fruitless yet epic search for a replacement air conditioner knob, which took me such exotic locales as Boro Park, where a man ate dinner from a dusty hot plate, to New Jersey, where I bought a “shhnurgenshtein” in the Swedish heaven called IKEA.. I was finally forced to order a knob at a stupidly inflated price from GE. That blog featured an extended description of my lifelong frustration with Home Depot. An excerpt follows:
Despite owning the reputation of having everything anyone could possibly need to put in a tub, sod a lawn, or furnish a castle, I had trouble there a few years back finding some hex screws. On another occasion I could not buy their advertised drill because, as explained by an associate, “it doesn’t exist.”
For those of you who have never been to a Home Depot, congratulations! Home Depot is one of those huge mega-warehouse hardware stores that is supposed to be your one-stop shop for anything in your home, be it paint, planks, or pliers. It has power saws and sanders. It has garden soil and planters. It has primer and stain. You could go into any Home Depot store and leave with anything for your home except an actual house, but if you want to live in a tool shed, they can supply your home too. Or so they say. I have found Home Depot to be lacking in pretty much whatever I have needed. And I’m talking about simple stuff, like nails or toilet seats. (Not to mention air conditioner knobs. But that was another story.)
Well, as this episode begins, I found myself in the strange predicament of being locked inside my apartment the other night. I’d been locked out before, but this was new. I was inside with no way to get out. I have a very expensive and secure lock on my front door. It has a very unusually-shaped key and is guaranteed to be impossible to open except by that key. In fact, the keys are uncopyable and have to be registered with the locksmith. So if my home is ever burgled, I am going straight to the police with the name of my locksmith, since he must be the one who broke in. The lock is great, but the doorknob was original equipment with the door and had been going bad for a few weeks. It would spin on the axle and not catch until I tightened the little screws on the side, and they were starting to strip. I put off replacing it because, well, that’s usually what I do. (Other than writing blogs where I review movies. Have you read my Ratatouille review? Neither did I. I heard it was good.)
On this night, as I was on my way out to an exciting and amazing destination (Waldbaum’s to buy some fruit) the door knob just came off in my hand. The door stayed shut, I had the knob and a stupid look on my face. “Uh.” Thanks to my special lock, if I were on the other side of the door, I could easily have gotten in to the apartment with the key, no knob required. Getting out, however, needed the knob. See why the lock is so special?
I got a long-handled screwdriver and used all of the skills I picked up in my years as a carjacker to jimmy open the catch through the little space between the door and jamb (and no, this doesn’t render the lock useless, this can only be done from the inside) and popped the door open. I cancelled my vital plans to buy oranges and knew that I had to replace the knob or once I came back I might never get out again. It was nine at night and only one place was open, Hells’ Depot. I mean Home Depot, again in search of a knob.
A little bit of back story here. I had just slightly twisted my right ankle for the 12th or 13th time in my life and it was a little sore. High on my left hip I had a small insect bite which had become infected and painful to a degree that I wouldn’t inflict on Jolanta Rohloff or Rick Mangone. Consequently, walking was uncomfortable for me. Not bad, not painful, but uncomfortable since any pressure on either leg was a problem. And if there is one thing you do in Home Depot, it is walk, because the place is as big as a TWA aircraft hanger, but with worse customer assistance.
I approached the store the way you I imagine soldiers in Viet Nam approached a stretch of dark woods. Cautiously, not knowing what it held, I slowly neared the store. Steely eyed and resolute, I nodded when the greeter did his thing. (And why does Home Depot need a greeter anyway? If I want a guy in filthy overalls to say “hi” to me I’ll go to the dump.) This was to be the last intelligent human contact I had inside the store. I would have a load of non-intelligent contact soon enough.
Home Depot (HD from now on because I’m lazy) at nine on a Friday night is not a happening place. On Saturday night, date night, the aisles are filled with young lovers, but on Friday the place had a few moms and toddlers looking for mops, some guys buying sheets of plywood, a few people pushing carts filled with power tools (and Homeland Security should really see who is buying power drills and big bags of fertilizer) and me, on my mission.
When you enter HD, you are facing the cleaning supplies. To your left is the garden center, to the right is the bulk of the beast. I turned right.
All the aisles are cleverly labeled with such helpful signs as “tools” and “nuts,” so I at least got a good chuckle there.
So I walked and walked and walked to the other end, past appliances, through paint and wallpaper, to the lumber section, in which it is possible to purchase bags of sawdust. That’s the stuff that gets swept up and thrown out at the end of a job. I assume it is there so that someone could spread it all over their floor and pretend top have been working really hard building that patio deck when they’ve actually been drinking beer and looking at their Jessica Alba calendars. (And yes, I do know why they sell sawdust. I’m no fool. They sell it to spread on the floors of Western steakhouses.) You may have noticed that I have just walked end to end without finding the doorknobs.
The first thing to do was find someone to ask. This is easier said than done because, in a store the size of a city block, there are maybe three employees. The guy at the door, someone in a red vest who always seems to be at the opposite end of the store no matter where you might be, and the guy I asked. In my defense, he looked like he knew what he was doing. He had a price gun and was carrying a ruler. But of course, the answer I got was “back there, I think.”
My first instinct was to hit him with something solid. My second instinct was to just walk away. I briefly thought about asking “back there where?” but my better judgment kicked in. I said “Phhhpt” and walked, now a little more uncomfortably, to where I believed, logically, they should be. I studied the flow of the store. I noted where the plumbing section led to the appliances and then led to the tools. After a few seconds of inspection, I said to myself “aisle twenty,” and that’s where they were. (And before you ask, no, the signage did not help at all.)
Now don’t think it was that easy. Although I was in the right aisle, I still had to hunt through all the stuff I didn’t want to find what I did. And then it was still harder because they had only four sets of knobs. Four in this whole city-sized place. And they were all dented.
Dented! Every single one of them, in every set of two, was dented. I held them all up to the light. Some were small dings, some were big holes. I picked the least dinged of them on the theory that A- I really need this to get out of my house, B- I could replace them later, and C- if I could manage to find a manager, I could complain. Now I knew that C was impossible and B wouldn’t happen because I’m lazy, but A was very compelling so I set out to find a cashier.
They actually had a cashier working, and I have to admit that this cashier was working hard. Good thing too, because she was the ONLY cashier and the line was anywhere from 8 to 45 people deep. I couldn’t really tell how many there were because they weren’t in a line, they were clustered around the cashier and complaining about how she was the only cashier and why didn’t she open another line and why didn’t she work faster and where was the manager and why was there only one cashier and where were the lawnmowers and on and on and on. Plus everyone had either a wagon filled with stuff or a flatbed filled with lumber.
I had doorknobs. So I went to the self-checkout.
Self-checkout is a scam. Part of what you pay for anything goes to pay the salary of the employees who ring you up. If I am going to ring up myself, and the store doesn’t need to pay someone to do it for me, I want a rebate. After all, the store is getting to save money by making me do the work. The same goes for when you bag yourself at the supermarket, but I make an exception there so my groceries will be bagged competently. Fast food places do the same thing when they give you the cup and you fill your own soda, but you can get over by getting refills. (But since soda is the biggest moneymaker in all of food service, this really is a hollow victory. McDonald’s, for example, pays less than ½ cent for the soda for which you paid $1.49. Soda is nearly all profit in food retail.) In general, there is a trend in retail to get the customer to do more of the work, thereby saving the company money. These savings are never passed on to you, and they are designed to make you think you are getting faster checkout, or convenience, or whatever, but in the end you still pay for services you don’t get.
But if I wanted to get out of HD before I died, or before I killed someone with a Dremel roto-tiller, I needed to leave. Self-checkout had a line slightly smaller than the regular checkout, but slightly slower, so it was a wash.
When I finally got out of HD, sometime early Saturday afternoon, I went home and put the knob on the door.
Fit like a glove.
I would like to say that I will never go to Home Depot again. I’d like to tell you that I have managed to get it out of my life. But history shows that I am doomed to forever go back again, and again. Home Depot still beckons me, like some Lovecraftian phantom, lurking on the threshold of my sanity. I pray that I have the strength to resist.