FAQ make me CRAZY

May 24, 2013

Just about every device one can acquire nowadays comes with a bunch of yellow warning notices from the Federal Government plus a couple of little booklets describing the product and how it should work. They are usually called the owner’s manual or operating guide.
All of this paperwork is necessary now because everything from toothbrushes to toenail clippers has some kind of computer chip in it to assist in its performance and increase its price.
Typically in the back of the owner’s manual or at least in the “English” section of the booklet, there is a space called FAQ or Frequently Asked Questions. This section contains random, obvious questions and canned answers which are allegedly asked most often by some unknown person or persons.
Many people think that this FAQ chapter is a recent phenomenon resulting from the growth in personal computers and accessories. And perhaps the FAQ moniker is just that, but providing common questions and rote answers dates back at least 1000 years.
I even recall in the 1950s every Catholic school first grader got a catechism from a certain  company in Baltimore. The format was a question and answer arrangement much like today’s FAQ.

The first line in the catechism always was:

Question: Who made the world?

Answer: God made the world.

Thus the gold standard of FAQ was established over 60 years ago in this  book when the prime philosophical question puzzling philosophers for millennia was addressed and answered  in four words. Somehow, even to my 6-year-old mind the answer was largely unsatisfying.
Now today’s FAQ follow the same paradigm. They are usually a page or two of questions with canned answers attached. The purpose, one might assume is to assist you in finding the solution to a problem you might be having with the device.

However, I have NEVER found FAQ to be helpful in this or any regard. In fact given the volume of FAQ out there, the entire process seems to be a monumental waste of paper and ink.
These FAQ are usually written first in Chinese  and then are translated into English probably by some binary chemist from Hunan Province who likes to use some very obscure idioms.

But the real issue is the FAQ never address your specific problem or provide an answer that is helpful.
For example, if the product does not work,  the first answer in the FAQ is…. make sure the appliance is plugged in.
Then, they say, is the power on?
After that the FAQ suggests you follow the power trail all the way back to the electric generating plant before you assume something is wrong with the product.
Finally, if you come to the end of FAQ and nothing has worked, the FAQ tell you to call or write (ha) to the service center in Goa, India. Then  send the defective product (in its original box) to them.

With a stern warning, the last section of FAQ advises you not to bring the item back to the store where you first acquired it or some really bad stuff will happen.

Heck, I am sure the store doesn’t want the junk back either.

I think the bad Ju Ju has already begun!


I have a young friend, Prospero, who is just finishing up his freshman year of college.

Like the protagonist in Shakespeare’s The Tempest, Prospero is a wizard of sorts. But unlike some of the dark wizards of the Harry Potter tales, Prospero only deals in the goodness of white magic.
In Shakespeare’s play, Prospero appears as an old man, who has seen it all, but my friend, as a college freshman looks at the world as I would imagine a young Prospero would see it. Prospero is also a very talented young man who excels in a number of areas. But to me his magic is his strongest suit.

He has  impressive magically powers. So much so that he cast a spell over his father and convinced this learned man of science  that a college course which permits extensive travel for college credit was essential for a quality education in the modern world. ‘
Honestly, I must  applaud Prospero’s  magic and feel a bit jealous that  I was not clever enough to score a sweet gig like that.

First, you study about famous, historic and beautiful places. Then you go on a road trip with your buddies to see these places and walk where history, fame and beauty were born.

My travel as a college student was limited to a seat-of-the-pants, ill-conceived, limited budget road trip in a VW beetle to Florida one spring break.
Of course, there was no college credit given for this trip, only the promise of seeing Mary Ann Murphy (or a reasonable facsimile thereof ) in a bikini.
Since then, over the years,  however, I have been able travel a fair amount and I wish Prospero well as he continues to do the same.

In fact, it is my firm opinion that all of us, Americans in particular, would benefit from travel to places beyond our immediate comfort zone.

And when you get college credit for doing so, it becomes magical!


Miranda: O wonder!

How many goodly creatures are there here!

How beauteous mankind is!

O brave new world That has such people in’t!


‘Tis new to thee.

The Tempest Act 5, scene 1,


That new car smell

May 18, 2013

Following the advice of Dr. Zorro and Mr. K, I took delivery of my new car a few weeks ago.

My old vehicle was getting quite a few miles on it and everyone thought I would be better off with the “2.0” model.

The outside is kind of pearl white with fancy new wheels. Most people think the wheels are “sporty” looking. I think they make me look like a pimp.

The inside, while it is basically the same model as my previous car, it has a few new high-tech bells and whistles.

For example it has no key for the ignition. You just carry this piece of plastic in your pocket and push a button when you get ready to drive. The car starts up by itself and off you go. I recall my father’s 1931 Model “A” Ford had a similar set up, just push the button and go. It nice to know technology is catching up with grandpa.
When  I picked up the car, Mr. K wanted to go over all the fancy features with me, but I was in a hurry and said I will just figure it out. I have been driving for over 50 years now. I think I can do it.

He said, OK, but then insisted on showing me the vehicle’s refrigerator and home movie theater. Very impressive I thought.

I was beginning to wonder, did I buy a car or a house?

“I really got to go K-man, I am late for an appointment,” I said.  So I dropped Mr. K off and away I went.

First stop, the cow pasture where I inspected a young mom and her new-born calf. I also ran over a couple of fairly fresh cow leavings.

Ah, nothing like breaking in a new vehicle organically.

Now it was off to my appointment. This is where I should have let Mr. K  explain at least one more item.

While driving I reached down into the console to get my house keys and accidentally pushed the “self” park button.
The car then seemed to become controlled by some strange  supernatural force and began to issue commands. It advised me to be cautious while it was ” searching for a place to park.” I felt I was in some bizarro dreamlike episode of Knight Rider. (Please, please don’t let me wake up as David Hasselhoff!)

When “KITT” found a parking place, it told me to let go of the steering wheel and then the possessed machine backed up and executed a perfect parallel parking procedure. It then shut itself off and advised me to exit the vehicle when it was safe.

The trouble was I was across town from where I needed to be… and had no idea how to take back control of the mystical machine.

Ancient Rome had its Frumetarii. The Ming dynasty of China had their Jinyiwei . Nazi Germany had the infamous Gestapo and of course, the gold standard of secret police, the Soviet Union had its Stalinites and the KGB.

Throughout recorded history, powerful, republics and dictatorships have had their own versions of enforcing secret police to do the dirty, often bloody work for the elite.  There have been hundreds of these secret organizations in place for thousands of years.
Now comes Amerika with its own global reach and hundreds of thousands of its own enforcers in dozens of Federal agencies and departments.
This is nothing new, it started in earnest during the 1950s with the Eisenhower and Kennedy administrations under the stern eye of J. Edgar Hoover and his personally molded FBI.
Of course there were the more publicized ones like Nixon’s Watergate plumbers and the White House enemies lists.
So now we come to the latest 21 century version involving three cabinet positions, State, Justice and Treasury.
The lies and false testimony of what really happened in Benghazi continue. The former Secretary of State continues to get her hair styled and gives speeches in preparation for her assumed accension to higher political elitism.  Meanwhile four American diplomats remain dead and no one has any answer as to why. America has become an intellectual gulag.

Well, now, adding to this swill, the Justice department illegally wiretaps phones and emails of a free press. One by the way which is very friendly and forgiving to the Administration.  If this circus was not so tragic it might be funny. When asked about the improprieties in his department, the head of the Justice Department, smugly abdicated responsibility and said he did not know what was going on in his own organization.
Which begs the question, ” Sir if you do not know what is going on in your department, why are you cashing your paychecks?

And lately, it has been discovered that the (politically neutral?) Internal Revenue Service has turned its very effective thumb screws on citizens who happen to disagree with the administrations policies. No one seems to know at the IRS, who gave the order to treat political adversaries of the administration with extreme prejudice, as the staff was “just following orders.” It seems unlikely that other than a slap on the wrist of some low-level career bean counter, something will be done, in spite of a hot Washington summer of congressional hearings.

Then we have the spy drones and the GPS locaters keeping track of hardworking, tax paying Americans while the borders remain unsecure and five chemists from known terrorist breeding ground countries are detained for trespassing in a restricted water reservoir zone near Boston after midnight… and then released!

It is little wonder why politicians are so despised. They are self-absorbed, elitists willing to do anything to stay in power and protect their privilege.

It is easy to understand that over half of all American citizens distrust their own government. Nevertheless, many uninformed Americans believe this country is immune to  the decay and destruction than has befallen mighty republics in the past.

America, I weep for you.

Now and Then

May 14, 2013

My friend, Bill owns a bait and tackle shop. For years, I have gotten some superb worms and other live bait from him for my meager catches of Snook and Red fish.
The other day, I stopped in to say “hi” and Bill was busy as all get out.
Knowing he used to hire college kids to help him, I asked, “Where’s all your help.”
“I’m not hiring those kids anymore more. Unreliable.” was his terse reply.
“You want a job?”
“What happened”, I asked
“They don’t show up. They don’t call. When I finally see them they say oh, I was tired. Tired?!”

He went on to say, ” I can overlook their tattoos, eyebrow piercings and all that texting, after all we are just selling nightcrawers and fish heads, but I need people to show up on time.”
This trend bothered me so I checked around and it seems there is a lot of this Aesopian grasshopper attitude among young people.
I know times have  changed a lot in fifty years, but is the virtue and self-satisfaction of a job well done disappearing in my America?
Virtue and self-esteem have seemed to given way to a kind of lazy, self-absorbed hedonism.
Today, kids think nothing of living in their parent’s basements, rent free well into their thirties.
Still thinking about this lack of work ethic, I heard on the radio that over 50% of women under thirty who were having babies were unmarried. Over 50 percent!. In some areas it was over 70 percent!

It used to be that a certain amount of shame was associated with giving birth out-of-wedlock. Now it seems it is celebrated.

I can understand women not wanting to get tied to another “child,” one who is too tired to go to work or wants  to spend his days in his parent’s basement playing video games. What I fail to comprehend is why women did not see this ” child” before the carnal entanglement began.

Now, when most of these newborns grow up in ignorance and poverty, who really suffers?

It seems to me the few minutes of fornication experienced by these women was not the wisest choice they ever made.

Still the babies keep coming.

And they will grow up poor and uneducated with no hope of a better existence regardless of how much government program money is spent on them.,

The pregnant young woman interviewed on the radio explanation of her status still rings in my head,

“Who wants another child to look after, these boys (not men) are content to play video games and hang out with their friends.”
Yet, these children are still having babies with no societal shame or stigma.

I suppose you could say it is a generational thing with me, and perhaps there is some of that involved. But I think that America is headed down a slippery slope. Its youth have been coddled.

In academic and athletic programs across the country, awards are presented to all children regardless of the level of achievement.  It is argued that not to do so would lower the self-esteem of the losers.  Where is the incentive for children to excel developed with this practice? Lowest common denominator kids lack the maturity and internal substance to make tough decisions and courage to carry them out.

Of course, not all young people are like that.  There are legions of stellar youngsters with extraordinary courage and virtuous rectitude, but sadly these leaders of tomorrow are outnumbered by their more egocentric cohorts.

I can just imagine my basic training drill instructor, Sargent Somerset’s reaction, if I told him I was too tired to report to reveille at 4:45 am!

I would still have his size 11 boot marks on my butt.

Mother’s Day, 2013

May 11, 2013

OK, I guess in the past, I have said some provocative things that got me in trouble with one person or another, but I always seemed to be able to get out of any sticky situation.

However, this time I may have crossed the line.
Yesterday, I was in the grocery store, getting some provisions for the holiday weekend. As I approached the checkout lane, I noticed that Pat was on duty as she skillfully scanned the items and John bagged them with his determined efficiency. While paying for my purchases, I sometimes joke with Pat about the latest news or other items of topical interest.
So, as I put my selections on the checkout belt and they moved forward, I decided to have some fun.
It was one of those moments when as the late comedian, Flip Wilson used to say, ” The devil made me do it.”
At this point, I commented to Pat,

” You know Pat, I am not completely certain, but I think this entire ‘Mother’s Day’ thing is a scam.”
Well,  you would think I just performed some objectionable bodily function in church. The belt stopped moving, Pat’s steel-blue eyes focused on me like a red dotted laser, her white hair seemed to turn crimson and I swear smoke shot out of her ears.
The grandmother in line behind me obviously took offense at my observation and banged my leg with her fully loaded cart….and John, who was bagging my groceries so efficiently, slowly shook his head and slinked away to the safety of the produce section.

There I was alone surrounded my some very angry mothers.

What seemed like hours later, Pat, broke the silence and admonished me in language that would have made my own mother blush. Clearly, I had to be  a complete moron not to understand that without mothers, society would cease to exist.
Doing some fancy mouthwork, I recovered and assured her, the grandma behind me and everyone else within earshot that I was fully aware mothers were the backbone of our culture and in fact, in my opinion, mothers performed most, if not all of society’s heavy lifting.
Further, I explained that what I thought was the scam was all the card companies, candy makers,  breakfast in bed people and the “take mom to brunch” restaurant crowd cashing in on a manufactured Mother’s Day guilt syndrome in an effort to line their own pockets.
While that explanation seem to mollify Pat somewhat, Grandma was having none of it. She made it quite clear she liked all the hoopla and folderal of the commercial Mother’s Day event…and so did her daughters-in-law who by now were gathering in the old lady’s defense.
Extracting my pants leg from her cart,  I wished Grandma a very, very happy Mother’s Day.

I then bagged my own groceries and left the store within an inch of my life. vowing never to return, unless my mouth was sealed shut with duct tape!
Happy Mother’s Day!