Happy Halloween!


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We just got in from a fun night of trick-or-treating. We saw some cool decorations like this, Anthony and his friend got quite a haul, and a guy a few blocks over was having his annual neighborhood party where he feeds whoever shows up.

And to top it off, it started to rain just as we walked in the door.

Not a bad night at all!

Posted from my HTC one M7 with the WordPress app

My Muse Got Stuck in Traffic and I Don’t Care


My schedule at Big Name Supermarket is sporadic at best. There’s no telling how many hours I’m going to work or in which department I will spend them in but either way, I’m beginning to think that the job has run its course on me after being there only 8.75 months.

Promises were made but have only been fulfilled partially despite the excretion of my (proverbial) blood, (real) sweat, and (frustrated) tears. And although I’m inching up on the grand ol’ age of 46 and feel great, the physical strain of the job—bagging, retrieving shopping carts, stocking merchandise, lifting heavy items—is getting to be a bit much. In the end, for everything I’ve put into it, all I’m getting out of it is a paycheck that equals my tax and health insurance deductions at a previous job.

After working office jobs for years, I thought that going back into a retail/grocery environment would do me some good. It did but not for very long and now I’m thinking that maybe an office job wasn’t that bad after all.

Maybe to some, working a grocery store is a fine and dandy career choice. For the cashier whose husband makes ridiculous amounts of money doing [redacted] for [redacted], scanning bananas for 30 hours a week is simply gas money for their watercraft and ATVs. Throw in working there for well over 20 years with her hourly rate of pay and she’s got enough gas money for her neighbor’s car. Career grocery cashiers can make over $20/hr. plus get all that union gobbledygook once they decide to hang up their apron. For the money and benefits it’s easy to see why they stick around doing the most mundane and brainless job any human can do.

But I’ve got more than cars to feed. I’ve got a family.

picardOh, speaking of unions, here’s another thing about my job: union dues. Granted, they are minimal but when you’re working less than 25 hours a week those few bucks missing from your check would have been nice to have. As of now, the only major thing I’ve seen from my union membership is ridiculously cheap health insurance for me and Anthony. Yes, I’ll take it, but as far as the rest of my contributions go, I have no idea what they do with them. I’m not a big fan of unions to begin with. (An aside: it’s been my experience that the union reps and employees never seem happy unless they are stirring up trouble. When I first went to the local office to join, the environment felt extremely tense, almost as if they were waiting for a strike to break out so they could go out and enjoy some good ol’ picketing and mudslinging.)

Pay raises have been incremental. After so many hours, I get a dime added to my hourly rate so as of now, I think I’ve earned 20 cents since my start in February with my next raise due after working another 970 hours or something like that.  But in the end it doesn’t matter because now that I’ve been “promoted” I have moved up to some new stupid level according to the Great and Powerful Union which means that they are now taking more money from my check. What’s better? If I don’t make sure those deductions are being taken out, I get fired.

I worked hard for this?

Also, my “promotion” simply means that I’ve been trained in a few departments so now they can pass me around like a joint at a Foghat concert. I was made to feel valuable but in the end it only seems like they are getting more work out of me for less labor costs. And what will this “promotion” get me? Eventually working as a cashier years later?

Working in the Bakery has been a sheer joy and I say that tongue-in-cheek. Outside of writing frosted sentiments on tops of cakes, my skills in the department are minimal at best which makes me more of a liability. I can’t make cakes, I’ve been shown very little, and whatever I do has been critiqued by yet another person who has made a career out of doing mundane tasks (read: throwing dough in an oven).

Yeah, so I should be happy to have a job and blah blah blah. I get that and I am, but there are an awful lot of quid pro quos that go along with that. And with all of this worrying/anger, I tend to eat much more than I normally do. Tell that to the two Big Macs I had for dinner yesterday.

I spent last night searching the job sites and found nothing. I then thought about what exactly it is I want to do and I can’t really answer that. All I know is that this place is draining me quicker than any other place I’ve worked and it’s time to move on.

I did that back when I was in college. One semester was filled with art classes, all of which I needed to earn my AA in Advertising Design. I worked hard to keep my grades up and loved every single class I was taking because, for all intents and purposes, I am an artist. One class in particular was Freehand Drawing and the instructor, whose name I forget but will refer to as Alan, was a free spirit like no other I’ve met. At the time I was taking his class, I was working the day shift at a photo processing lab. All was fine until I had heard they were going to move me overnight, a move which would have impeded on my school schedule.

Despite my protests, the move was going to happen anyway and I was faced with the choice of going to school or working. It was impossible to do both. Frustrated, I spoke to Alan about the situation and wanted to get his input on the matter. I told him I felt like quitting on principle because they knew I was going to school. His words still resonate whenever I’m faced with a challenge with work or anything I’m confused about.

He simply smiled and said, “If you don’t do it now, you’re not going to do it at all.”

Damn. Damn. DAMN. Why must you us artistic people be so freaking deep and romantic?

I went to work the next day, walked into the HR office and much to their amazement, quit on the spot. It felt good and Alan was proud of me for being so bold and facing the music. But now things are a bit different. I can’t just up and quit something; I’ve got to have something lined up. And as of now, I don’t and for all that college I took, I didn’t finish my courses to earn my degree.

So after searching for a job last night, I thought it would be good to do some meditation and hopefully get some insight on things. But before I did, I sent out this tweet because, well, that’s what people do with random thoughts these days:

To “summon your muse” in the writing world means you’re looking for inspiration, a plot, an idea. But the thing is that a writer, or any artistic person, should never be void of any idea. I mean, really. I’ve gotten this far on this post telling you how much my job sucks coupled with an old war story from my college days. I find it hard to shut off my mind long enough to meditate.

Anyway, what I got from meditating 15 minutes was a feeling of calmness, of bringing a big, fat ball of positive energy into my life which I could almost physically touch and see even with my eyes closed. At any rate I reached for it, grabbed it, and brought it in. And what I took away from it was this.

I have to be my own muse. I have to do my own thing. Waiting around expecting anyone to do it for me is just silly.

I want to take the family places, do things, even have a nice dinner with them now and then. I can’t do that shoving dough in an oven, bagging groceries, or whatever else I do at the store.

More than ever, I need to make a move and better myself.

And I am starting right now.

Adventures in Smartphones


Okay, so it’s been way too long between posts and I sort of have an idea about today’s topic.

As you may recall, I dropped my Samsung Galaxy S4 Active the day before I was to participate in the Long Beach Marathon Bike Tour and 5k. In case you don’t remember what it looked like after the fall, here’s a refresher.

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Since the day I dropped it, I had been tolerating the ugly display and felt every little crack as I slid my finger across the screen and because of that, I had to buy a cheap screen protector in order to save the tip on my index finger from getting any glass stuck inside of it. And I worked with it as long as I could.

I think it was about a week after The Dropping when I decided that I couldn’t take it anymore and gave AT&T a call to get an idea on what I could do until I’m eligible for an upgrade. The simplest solution, as they told me, was to buy a cheap AT&T GoPhone and slide the SIM card in it and everything would be back to normal.

Thinking it was a good idea, I did just that by purchasing the ZTE Compel at Radio Shack since the nearest AT&T store didn’t have them in stock. In fact, they had very little in stock and shouldn’t even be in business. More on that later.

Thinking I had the problem temporarily solved, I took it home, put my SIM card in the phone, connected to WiFI, and started getting my favorite apps. By the time I hit App #7, the internal memory was already full. I didn’t even think to start moving apps to the memory card; I immediately figured that this phone was lacking and decided to take it back after two solid hours of ownership. It just wasn’t going to work for me.

So now I’m back to using Ol’ Crackly. I started to browse the Best Buy site for some reason, knowing I didn’t have the money to fork over for a new phone but after searching, I did find a Samsung Galaxy that was in my price range—sort of. I still didn’t have enough money to buy the thing. I then made the decision to apply for a Best Buy credit card and, within seconds (which really is some kind of record for me), I was approved and could start shopping immediately. Hey, man. Desperate times, desperate measures.

10697408_10152586326394118_4861105702589338811_oAnd when I buy a phone, I take a lot into consideration (except maybe for that ZTE piece of garbage, which was bought out of sheer desperation). Things like replaceable battery, expandable memory, internal memory, and camera megapixels are all important when I’m comparing. I had narrowed the phones down to a couple of Moto G models (16GB internal memory and no SD card expansion) and the Samsung Galaxy S II (16GB internal memory with SD card expansion) even though the Motorola phones had no removable battery. I don’t know how you iPhone people do it. In the end, I took a chance with the Galaxy S II knowing that it was indeed a few years behind in terms of style, OS, everything. Then the waiting game began as I checked the UPS Tracking Number daily to see when the phone would arrive.

I was very happy when the phone arrived. It was so shiny and…white. But the problem was that, being it was well over three years behind the times, it had a standard SIM card and not the mirco SIM cards that today’s smartphones use. This meant I had to make a trip to my local AT&T store to get a larger SIM card.

They didn’t have any of those, either. Remember when I said this place shouldn’t even be in business? Well, there you go. I had to end up scooting down the local Corporate store where I took a number and waited but not very long. I told them what I needed, they scanned my info to it, I was done and on my way home.

Now it was time. I had a somewhat new phone and my SIM card which I inserted and started the setup process. It all went well and I was ready to once again start installing apps.

Here’s the funny thing about the Samsung Galaxy S II: it has 16GB partitioned memory with a paltry 2GB dedicated to the Android OS and apps. Two. Freaking. Gigabytes. Had I known this from the get-go there would have been no way I would have bought it as I’m a heavy app user.

Anyway, I started installing apps and was relatively satisfied having my most frequently used apps on it. Then came time to give it a test run—and it failed.

The dual-core processor couldn’t handle things very well and it froze up on me frequently. The 11GB of remaining memory are for storage and pictures and I soon realized why that is: the phone was so bad that it couldn’t save images to the SD card. I would take a few pictures and then review them, losing the last couple I had taken. Once I switched to saving them internally, the problem went away but that didn’t solve the freezing-up issue. This was enough for me to decide that it had to go back to Best Buy, where I was asked why I was returning it.

“It’s a horrible phone,” I said. “It really is. It just didn’t work for me.”

That’s two phones within a week and at this point, I was off the grid. Remember, that phone had a standard SIM card and my Galaxy S4 had the micro SIM card, meaning it was useless until I could get my info put back onto a micro SIM card. Ugh.

So I walked around Best Buy looking at unlocked phones and man, I didn’t want to spend a lot which was the main reason I bought the Galaxy S II. The thing was just over $200 which I thought wasn’t too bad for what it was on paper, but I soon learned the truth. But after looking over several models and asking the associates how much internal memory they had (mostly 8 or 16GB), I was starting to feel as if I would be back to using Ol’ Crackly once again.

That was until I saw the HTC one M7.

It was blue, my favorite color. It had 32GB of internal memory. It had a quad-core processor.

And although it has a non-replaceable battery and no memory expansion, in the end (and $299 later) it went home with me.

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Well, I didn’t go straight home just yet. I had to make yet another trip to the AT&T Corporate store to get my info put back on a micro SD card which they happily did in no time flat. And once I got home, I finally cranked this baby up and let it fly.

I was impressed. I’m still impressed. This phone is everything that my previous AT&T phones were not: quick, responsive, a flat-out joy to use. And I hesitate to say that despite it not being waterproof like Ol’ Crackly, I enjoy using the M7 much more.

Then it came time to start chipping away at the 32GB on internal storage, or about 24GB remaining after bloatware and OS are factored in.

Apps installed and ran perfectly. There is absolutely no lag when running anything on this phone. I then transferred the music I had on the micro SD card over to it and as of now, with all of my most frequently used apps installed and enough music to keep me happy, I still have 12.4GB remaining. Ol’ Crackly was just under 8GB remaining but a lot of the stuff was running off the micro SD card which could explain the lag I sometimes experienced. And if the music on the phone isn’t enough, I have over 10,000 songs stored online with Google Music.

Another plus is that I upgraded to Android KitKat, and that this model is on the list of phones that will be getting Android Lollipop next year. I won’t be obsolete for a long time!

Now if there’s one thing I could say I don’t like about this phone, it’s the HTC Sense launcher. While it looks beautiful, it seems to lack a lot of things that the stock Touchwiz launcher does. But I didn’t mess with it for very long as I installed Nova Launcher, a completely customizable Android launcher that looks and functions better than Touchwiz.

Also, the camera is a measly 4MP but with everything else the HTC one M7 brings to the table (quad-core processor, 2GB RAM, Beats audio, FM radio, awesome design, slow-motion HD video, etc.) I’m willing to compromise. In the right hands, even a 4MP camera can look pretty good. Here’s a full-size sample of a picture taken with the M7.

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Definitely not as sharp as the Galaxy S4 Active but still acceptable for me, and I now understand how iPhone users deal with non-expandable memory.

I also bought a case for it, a rather rugged one that will have to do until I can find an Otterbox case. I’m willing to spend…uh, charge the extra money to my credit card for an Otterbox case so that this phone doesn’t suffer the same fate as the Galaxy Active. I’m just not ready to deal with that again.

And oh, it’s good to sit and blog again. I just wish my laptop was still working so that I can retire to privacy of my Creative Corner where I enjoy writing so much more.

This Post’s Title Should Be One Giant F-Bomb


Calm blue ocean. Calm blue ocean.

I guess I should have waited to blog after what happened today at work but as is the case with life, who knows what the next minute will bring? I thought writing about my phone pretty much becoming a useless chunk of microchips would be the most eventful thing to happen to me but, as you might guess, I was wrong.

It was a little after 4pm when in the middle of doing my workplace duties, I saw a customer speaking to one of my coworkers about something he witnessed in the parking lot. The coworker, knowing I owned a scooter and that there was a good chance I’d be the victim, directed the customer to me.

“Do you own one of those motorbikes out there,” he asked. I nodded in agreement.

He then proceeded to tell me that kids from a local school were playing on and around one of them – I didn’t know at this point if it was mine – and knocked it to the ground. By the time he got over to where it was, the kids had already fled the scene.

Now keep in mind what happened with my phone today and remember it’s not just a phone. It’s my lifeline as I no longer have a home phone. It’s also my camera, my music device, my exercise mate and now, it’s just a chunk of shit with a shattered screen. Functional, but still shit.

I had already been through enough emotions regarding the damage sustained to my phone and I was just about coming to grips with what happened to it, ready to accept it and move on knowing that I was the causer of the damage.

But that quickly changed once I exited the store.

I park my scooter along the side of the store and can always see one of the mirrors peeking over the wall of the cartwell. This time, however, I didn’t see it which I knew was bad news. When I did go and take a closer look, this is what I saw.

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Yup. My mode of transportation, my way of getting around, the reason I studied so hard to earn my permit was lying on the ground thanks to the carelessness and downright disrespect of school kids.

I had already crushed once today but this one felt a little more personal, like when my 1991 Nissan Sentra was broken into way back when. This one really hurt – and angered me more than anything else had in a long time.

How mad was I? Let this GIF give you an idea.

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As I stood there incredulously looking at my scooter on the ground, I just about flipped. If it had been a windy day and a strong gust came by to knock it off balance and this was the result, of course I wouldn’t have been so angry. Disappointed for sure, but not angry. But when it’s something that shouldn’t have happened in the first place, that’s where Dave gets human.

I finally came to my senses and decided to pick up the scooter –  it doesn’t have a name – to see what damage it might have sustained.

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The hand deflector that the scooter landed on is not only loose but it also horribly scratched.

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The force of the fall was so strong that it knocked the seat off its fitting. I had to force it back into place. I don’t know if you know this or not but motorbikes, whether a motorcycle or simple scooter, are really heavy.

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The stand was also scratched in the fall…

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…as was the left side mirror cover.

Calm blue ocean. Calm blue ocean.

Now let’s get cover a few things before I go on a diatribe of biblical proportions.

Yes, I’ve been trying my best to keep negative energy and thoughts away by studying Buddhism. Yes, these are only material things and yes, #firstworldproblems. But at the same time, there are things and days that are handed to you and you, being of flesh and blood, sometimes can’t make any sense of them.

That’s where I am now and this is where the rant begins.


To the Kid/s Who Thought It Would Be Fun to Sit on My Scooter and Knock It Over:

Who fucking raised you? A band of apes? Have you no common sense? Are/Is your parents/parent (provided you weren’t the product of a one-night stand) that disassociated with your lives that they don’t have the wherewithal to tell you what’s right or what’s wrong? Do they just let your hoodlum selves run rampant between school and the city bus that drags your criminal asses back home?

What would it be like if I decided to sit in your parent’s car and fuck around with shit inside of it just for the hell of it? Would they like it? What if I slashed the tires after I was done? Break a window? Drop a deuce inside and leave the windows up on a hot day? Would you like it if I found your phone and cracked the screen after intentionally dropping it? OOPS! OH WELL! HAHAHA! LOL! What you did is exactly the same: destruction of personal property and vandalism and that shit is not cool, you shitheads.

And oh, do you have any idea how I got to riding this? The sacrifices I had to make like giving up my 2013 Kia Optima because I could no longer afford to make the payments on the damn thing on my current salary? And that I’m working this job because nothing else has turned up? This is all I can afford and you fucked it up for the sake of your entertainment. Do you think I enjoy watching you little shitfucks running around my store and strealing (yes, I know you do) and bagging groceries for you ungrateful pricks and your parents? I do a lot to earn my pittance (get your dictionary, if you even know what one is) in order to feed my family and pay for this. What do YOU do to earn anything?

The next time you decide to fuck with someone’s shit and cause damage to it in the process, perhaps you should hang around and face the music when the owner realizes what you’ve done. Oh, I’m sorry. That would be the responsible thing to do, something you or your parents obviously have no idea about.

Stay away and off of my shit. For real. I really, really hope your parents are proud for raising little assholes like you.


Ahem.

I think I said what I’ve been meaning to say all day long. I feel only slightly better.

The good thing is that there are cameras outside the store and we know which school the kids came from based on the timeline of events. It’s only a matter of time before we find out who they were and being that kids these days love to post everything on social media, I’d be willing to wager they took a picture or video of it and uploaded it somewhere.

Also, I was told that I could possibly be reimbursed for the damage these senseless little fucks caused. While grateful, it still should not have happened.

Calm blue ocean. Calm blue ocean.

But on the plus side, I did buy a PowerBall ticket for this Saturday…

Eating My Words


When we signed our contract with Big Cell Phone Company (AT&T), something I thought I’d never do again, I remember the salesperson asking if we wanted to buy insurance for our phones.

My reply was simple: “Nah, I’ve had good luck with phones and never had to replace one. No thanks.”

Besides, my Samsung Galaxy S4 Active was designed to be impervious to elements such as water and dust and I didn’t figure that I’d be exposing it to much of those anyway, so what were the chances of having the phone damaged in any other way? Right? Well, today I found out.

On this, the eve of a busy weekend of Kids Fun Runs and my fifth bike tour and second duathlon, I am eating my words in regards to not opting for insurance. This morning I was trying to calibrate the speed on my bike’s computer by comparing it to a speedometer app on my phone. All was going well until, somehow or another, the phone slipped out of my hand and onto the asphalt.

There was this awful *KA-CHUNK* sound as it made contact.

At that point I didn’t care about the calibration. I hit the brakes and turned around to find the phone lying face-down in the street and my only thought was, “Oh shit. I hope the screen isn’t broken.”

I picked it up, flipped it over, and found this staring back at me.

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One tumble from around 3 feet at a speed of 5 MPH has turned the screen into what looks like a window of an abandoned restaurant somewhere in the middle of the Mojave Desert that had been shot at repeatedly by a CO2 pistol. I mean, look at that. It’s pretty effed up.

I picked it up and as any normal 40-something male would do when their expensive gadget malfunctioned or was severely damaged, I bawled like a baby.

(Okay, maybe not that bad. But I was pretty upset and honestly, still am. I’m using this blog post as an outlet.)

And naturally, because I have no insurance on the thing*, I’m willing to bet that there isn’t much that AT&T would be willing to do to make things right so I’m not even going to bother to call them on it. It fell, it broke. It was an accident and that’s all there was to it.

With that being the case I decided to look into having the screen repaired locally, and the quote from the first and only company I contacted was for $180 plus tax. Here’s my issue with that.

I’m on the Next Plan with AT&T, a plan that includes a $20 extra monthly charge that is applied toward your future upgrade. At this point in our contract, I would have to pay $250 (the remaining balance over our contract) in order to upgrade to a new phone so even if I had the money to do so (which I don’t), there’s no way I’d spend $180 to get the thing fixed when for a mere $70 more I can just get a brand new phone.

In the meantime, I’m trying to adopt to my new spider-webby screen which meant running down to my favorite Japanese store for a generic screen cover so that I wouldn’t get any glass shards in my fingertips as I use the thing. I’m sure the screen will continue to crack as days go by so the cover will also keep things in place.

As for the phone’s look, I can pretend the cracks are part of a really cool, live 3D wallpaper – until it’s time to read a text. The top of the screen is pretty much useless with those huge cracks, and that means posting things to social media is going to be a real pain. Facebook is difficult, Instagram is impossible, and I’m sure I’ll find out as time goes by which other apps have been killed as the result of this little incident.

And if there is anything good about this, it’s that the front-facing camera lens narrowly escaped having the crack go over it. Because, you know…selfies.

I take a lot of pictures with my phone at all of my events and I had planned on doing it again this weekend. I’m positive I’ll still do that, but when I ask someone to take one for me, I’m going to look like…you know, one of those guys with the cracked phone screen that makes you say, “How do you use that? Man, why don’t you just get a new phone?”

If only it were that simple.

So this year, my laptop took a dump and I busted my phone. Not fun.

But on the plus side, I did buy a PowerBall ticket for this Saturday…

 

*No insurance that I’m aware of. Maybe I should call.

California’s Plastic Bag Ban


plastic-bag-be-green-1Today in California, our former-turned-reelected governor Jerry Brown signed a law that will ban the use of plastic bags in grocery stores next year, with convenience stores and pharmacies following suit in 2016. The idea behind the ban seems to be twofold: reducing litter and saving the environment.

That’s fine and well even though I’m not a tree-hugging hippie.

But what I am is someone who works in a grocery store who has a few stories to tell and some points to consider, so let me go ahead and break stuff down for you.

Nobody Can Remember The Ban
My fair city has had the plastic bag ban in effect for at least three years. That said, you would think that consumers would have already gotten used to bringing their own reusable bags into the store with them.

Nope. I’d say that around nearly half of our customers can’t seem to remember that the law was passed back in 2011 and therefore, have no reusable bags to put their groceries in. At that point, we have to ask if they would like to purchase paper bags (10 cents each), a reusable plastic bag (16 cents each), or even one of our reusable bags that sell anywhere from 99 cents to $4 depending on the material they are made from. They also have the option of using free boxes ala Costco should we have any on hand but those can be clumsy and not easy to carry.

Unless they are using the free boxes, their total goes up by however many bags they purchase and believe me, I hear about it. I know of one customer in particular who is absolutely adamant about not buying any kind of bag and when you ask him if he would like to, he goes on a diatribe that runs the gamut: unions, local government, Illuminati, you name it. He would rather die than spend pocket change for one bag – his exact words, not mine. I’ve since remembered his face and know not to ask him anymore but this is just one of the many negative responses we get.

Some Simply Don’t Know
There are cities surrounding the one I call home that have not yet banned plastic bags and on occasion, we get customers from those cities (or out of state, for that matter) shopping at my store. When asked if they need bags, the response is usually the same.

“Oh shit, that’s right. I’m in Long Beach.”

That quote implies that even those out of the city know about the ban yet most within the city don’t. Go figure.

Then there are those visiting or on vacation from other states or countries who look at you with strange eyes if you ask them if they would like bags. The expressions on their faces could be easily translated into, “Well duh, I want bags. This is a grocery store, isn’t it?” Then when we give the spiel about our city not using plastic bags, the reaction is almost always the same: “Well, that’s stupid.”

Sorry, not my idea. Write a letter to City Hall.

A Bacterial Hotbed
As I said, some customers remember to bring their reusable bags which is fine and well. (An aside: if you have reusable bags, put them on the conveyor belt before your groceries so that we have something to put them in. Otherwise, I will start bagging your stuff in paper or plastic bags that we will charge you for, or just let your items pile up until I get your bags. Thanks.) But just because they’ve brought in reusable bags doesn’t mean that they are being exclusively for groceries – or clean for that matter.

I’ve seen a lot of stuff inside bags while filling them with groceries: dirty clothing, used paper towels or facial tissues, receipts, toys, foodstuffs, etc. But the fun is only beginning.

I’ve also put groceries in bags that were moldy, dirty, smelly, covered with blood stains from leaking packages of meat, and, perhaps the worst of all, one that smelled like the customer’s cat urinated inside of it. Granted, we’re not there to pass judgment or give opinions but after bagging the items in this particular bag I had to walk away to get some fresh air and wash my hands. It was utterly disgusting. The customer didn’t seem to mind the smell at all as they grabbed their stuff and left, all smiles.

And just think: grocery store baggers are sticking their hands into these bacteria-infested bags for the sake of a few measly bucks, exposing themselves to who knows what the hell is inside those bags. Yes, it’s a minimum-wage job. Only those who have dedicated their lives to working in such an environment are making what one would consider good money. I fall into the former category, not the latter.

So yeah, most customers don’t wash their bags which is disgusting considering that food is going into them. They just let the funk of 40,000 years continue to fester inside them.

Shoplifting Is Harder to Determine
If a customer doesn’t want to pay for a bag or use a box, then chances are they will walk out of the store either carrying their items or rolling them out in a shopping cart. It’s an everyday occurrence, especially for the people who work in the offices behind the store. The problem here is that a customer who is carrying their items or is rolling them out of the store in a cart looks exactly the same as a thief who just picked up an item off the shelf or filled their cart with things and is leaving the store. It’s become so common to see it happening that it’s harder to determine who’s a shoplifter and who isn’t, and we can’t accuse anyone of anything unless we know for sure. In short, stuff can just walk out the door and we’d have no clue if it was paid for or not.

And you know what happens when stuff starts getting stolen from stores, don’t you? That’s right: prices go up and everybody pays for it.

The plastic bag ban may solve a few issues but knowing what I know, it opens up a gigantic, smelly can of worms at the same time.

(By the way, I never voted for Jerry Brown. I was too young the first time and wiser the second time.)

Just What I Needed


I suck terribly at karaoke. It’s a fact.

But despite that, I have absolutely no shame and therefore I truly enjoy doing it. This would explain why I try to make it a point to get together with current and former coworkers once a month (schedules permitting) and head out to a local bar to sing ourselves silly.

The problem is that because we are regulars and the music catalog is rarely updated, we’ve pretty much done every song we’ve wanted to sing. Now it’s gotten to a point where a few of us bring in our own CDs with karaoke versions of songs we want to sing.

All of this leads to my recent acquisition of a mixer that my neighbor gave to me. He had purchased it for a radio project that never quite worked out so, knowing I like making a fool of myself, he let me have it.

Now you’ll probably wonder how this little box is going to work as a karaoke machine. Well, I’m going to explain it to you.

YouTube as tons of karaoke videos including pretty current ones. If you have Chromecast, you can stream said music videos to your TV which in my case is a 42” Sony HDTV. Once you set up the stream, it takes a little wiring to get things right: audio out from TV into mixer; mixer into equalizer; equalizer into surround sound.

Done and done. Now the only thing I needed was a microphone, the cheapest ones with XLR connections going for around $25 which isn’t that bad. I was willing to spend that much and be perfectly happy with everything.

tempSo that was my goal for today: find a microphone. We decided to head out to a pawn shop in my hometown since we’ve found some pretty amazing deals there on just about everything you can think of: jewelry, musical instruments, even camera lenses back when I used film.

We looked around and didn’t find much of anything. I even asked the guy at the counter if they had any and he referred me to someone else who was busy helping another customer. Ann wasn’t feeling too good so I didn’t want to hang around much longer and we left. I felt kind of dejected knowing I was leaving without what I had come for.

I persuaded Ann into eating at a local burger joint that I used to frequent as a kid. She agreed and ate the bag of fries on the drive back, feeling better as we got closer to home. Never underestimate the power of a greasy spoon, especially one that has been around for so long.

One thing we noticed on the way out there was a ton of garage sales. I mean, tons of them. There had to be one at almost every other street but we didn’t think to stop at any of them being that I was on a mission. But on the way home, we drove by one and decided to stop by. There were a few bikes for sale that Ann thought would be perfect for Anthony (but they wanted too much for them).

We stopped and looked around at their wares, most of which was quality stuff and selling cheap. After Ann got a price for the bike, we walked over to the driveway to see what else they had.

And there they were, among the piles of sparkly sequinned dance outfits and shoes: two Panasonic microphones sitting in an old shoebox. I asked how much they were and braced myself. The adult daughter, who we later found out was the last child living at the home and was selling most of her stuff to move, looked at them and smirked.

“Ummm…$4 for both,” she said.

I quickly reached for my wallet as if I felt someone trying to lift it from my back pocket.

“Here’s $5. I’m good with that. Keep it.” She tried to give me the extra dollar back but I refused. We looked around a little more and ended up taking this haul home.

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Two candle holders, a Brookstone lighted lap desk, fountain vase, a set 3 of decorative bowls and of course, two microphones. All of this for $20. Ann and I both scored and could have gotten more if we wanted to do a little demolition and rewiring to accommodate the $250 lighting set they were selling for $20. We decided to pass – too much work regardless of the bargain. An electrician I am not.

We got home and tried everything. Although the battery holder inside the desk is broken, it’s nothing a little piece of duct tape couldn’t hold together and it works perfectly. (This would be great if my laptop still worked.) The fountain has a small crack but it does not affect the performance of the flowing water nor does it leak.

And the microphones?

Although they are not XLR connections, they both work and don’t sound too bad.

My homemade karaoke system is now complete and I was meant to find them today at such a bargain price.

Now it’s time to annoy the neighbors.